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 Preliminary suggestions for marine conservation zones

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PostSubject: Preliminary suggestions for marine conservation zones   Thu Apr 14, 2011 11:15 pm

PRESS RELEASE
14 April, 2011
For immediate release

South Suffolk, Essex, Thames and North Kent
Preliminary suggestions for marine conservation zones revealed

The Balanced Seas Marine Conservation Zone Project, which is developing the recommendations for Marine Conservation Zones in the south-east, reached a significant milestone on 28 February 2011 with its Third Progress Report. A summary of the report has now been launched to reach a wider audience which shows the current status of sites under discussion for the South Suffolk, Essex, Thames and North Kent area. The recommendations will be finalised by the end of August this year, with designation of sites at the end of 2012 following a public consultation.

Marine Conservation Zones will protect nationally important biodiversity, including certain rare and threatened species and habitats. There is a wealth of life teeming within the estuaries and coastal seas in the south-east. The South Suffolk, Essex, Thames and North Kent region is characterised by numerous estuaries and extensive offshore sand banks. The area encompassing the Blackwater, Crouch, Roach and Colne estuaries is famous for Native Oyster populations and is also the only place in the south-east where the tiny Lagoon Sea Slug occurs.

A Marine Conservation Zone for this area would be aimed at ensuring the sustainable management of the oyster fishery and the attractiveness and health of this popular recreational area. The Thames Estuary is also being discussed as a future Marine Conservation Zone because it has one of the largest populations of the rare Tentacled Lagoon Worm as well as important nursery areas for smelt.

Other sites being discussed include the Goodwin Sands (one of the largest sandbanks in the region), the underwater chalk ledges of the Thanet coast that harbour a diverse community of rare plants and animals, and the rich and productive estuaries of the Medway and Swale.

The Balanced Seas Regional Stakeholder Group, made up of 34 people who use or have an interest in the sea, with the support of the project’s three Local Groups, has identified these areas. The sites are not final agreed recommendations and are still subject to change, including to the boundaries. Potential protection levels will be suggested by the same groups and will be variable at each site: activities will not be restricted unless they are likely to cause damage to the features being protected. As a result, many activities will be able to continue in a Marine Conservation Zone.

The project is moving quickly and Balanced Seas wants to make sure that those with an interest in the sea fully understand the work and what it will mean to them. The summary leaflet has been designed to help stakeholders understand the progress being made and the process being used to identify sites.

Balanced Seas project manager, Sue Wells, said, “For the first time in the UK, marine protected areas are being recommended by people with a real interest in the sustainable management of the sea and its resources. We are very grateful to the Regional Stakeholder Group and the three Local Groups who have worked extremely hard to get to this point. They have been engaging with a large variety of complex information and have been working collaboratively to try to meet the targets.”

Sue continues, “This summary leaflet allows all those with an interest in the south-east sea to pick up a copy and at a glance see what areas are being discussed by the stakeholder groups and why they are being considered. We urge people to take a look and feedback their views through their sector representative on one of the stakeholder groups.”

To download the leaflet and to contribute to the Marine Conservation Zone process, please visit www.balancedseas.org



Background information
The Marine Conservation Zone Project is being led by Natural England and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) to identify and recommend Marine Conservation Zones to Government.

The Marine Conservation Zone Project is being delivered through four regional Marine Conservation Zone projects covering the south-east (Balanced Seas), the south-west (Finding Sanctuary), the Irish Sea (Irish Sea Conservation Zones) the North Sea (Net Gain). These regional Marine Conservation Zone projects will work with sea users and interest groups to identify MCZs and provide recommendations for sites within their regions to Government.

Balanced Seas is a project working in partnership with Natural England, JNCC, the University of Kent, Kent County Council and all those with an interest in the marine environment to identify and recommend Marine Conservation Zones for the inshore and off-shore waters of south-east England. www.balancedseas.org

Natural England is the statutory conservation adviser for Government for England (including territorial waters) and is committed to delivering an ecologically coherent network of Marine Protection Areas. It will commit time from its own specialist staff and research products to support the project as well as providing funding. www.naturalengland.org.uk

Joint Nature Conservation Committeeis the statutory adviser to Government on UK and international nature conservation, on behalf of the Council for Nature Conservation and the Countryside, the Countryside Council for Wales, Natural England and Scottish Natural Heritage. Its work contributes to maintaining and enriching biological diversity, conserving geological features and sustaining natural systems. JNCC is also the statutory conservation adviser to Government for UK offshore waters (i.e. beyond 12 nautical miles). www.jncc.gov.uk


Natural England and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee produced the Ecological Network Guidance (ENG), setting out statutory advice on the criteria for selection of Marine Conservation Zones within the project areas, which can be viewed at: www.naturalengland.org.uk/Images/100608_ENG_v10_tcm6-17607.pdf
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