DEFRA last week announced the designation of 41 more Marine Conservation Zones in English waters.
Today it is announcing a review of whether and how new stronger protections for areas of the sea known as Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) could be introduced. This review is to be led by Richard Benyon, a Conservative MP and former Environment and Fisheries Minister who has a particular interest in marine fisheries and their protection. The announcement is here.
The new HPMAs would protect vulnerable areas of England’s coastal, inshore and marine waters by closing them off to any human activity with the potential to cause harm.
The Government’s manifesto includes a commitment to create a Blue Belt of marine protection for Britain’s overseas territories and its own coast.
Per DEFRA – targeted HPMAs would complement the existing network of marine conservation zones and allow vulnerable marine wildlife to fully recover, free from all damaging human activities, with the aim of restoring areas to a pristine state.
The UK’s Blue Belt currently spans 220,000 sq km with 128 Marine Conservation Zones including 89 in English waters.
Targeted Highly Protected Marine Areas would complement the existing network of Marine Conservation Zones, and would mark the most significant expansion of England’s ‘Blue Belt’ of protected areas to date, if it happens.
The review will be asked to establish an evidence-based process and criteria for selecting Highly Protected Marine Areas, and if supported by the evidence, recommend potential locations for pilot sites.
The review is supported by Natural England.
The views of those who use the seas will be at the heart of the review, which will over six months consider the economic and social impacts on businesses and individuals who use the sea, taking into account the views of fishermen, conservation groups, marine industries, and local communities. (DEFRA)