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England’s blue belt expanded by 41 zones

Words: Laura Edgar
Short snouted seahorse / Shutterstock_1016970043

Environment secretary Michael Gove has announced the expansion of England’s blue belt with 41 Marine Conservation Zones.

The new zones, amounting to 12,000 square kilometres of marine habitat, will help to protect the rare stalked jellyfish, short-snouted seahorse and blue mussel beds.

Expanding the blue belt forms part of the government’s 25-year environment plan.

The UK now has 355 Marine Protected Areas, with 50 zones designated in 2013 and 2016.

The latest round of protections follows consultation with local fishermen and marine conservation experts, as well as with the public. The government said each designation is based on scientific evidence provided by marine experts from Natural England; the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC); socio-economic information provided by stakeholders; and Defra economists. Management plans will now be put in place to protect the newly designated habitats and species.

Regulators, such as the Marine Management Organisation and local Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities (IFCA), will be responsible for ensuring that the Marine Conservation Zones are managed to protect their species and habitats, working with local fishing communities and other organisations.

Gove said: “The UK is already leading the rest of the world by protecting over 30 per cent of our ocean – but we know there is more to do.

“Establishing this latest round of Marine Conservation Zones in this Year of Green Action is another big step in the right direction, extending our blue belt to safeguard precious and diverse sea life for future generations to come.”

The 41 blue belt designations include:

  • Beach Head East, South East
  • Camel Estuary, South West
  • Goodwin Sands, South East,
  • Solway Firth, North West
  • Yarmouth to Cowes, South West
  • Ribble Estuary, North West
  • Markham’s Triangle, East of England

The full list of designations can be found on the UK Government website.

Image credit | Shutterstock