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Government considering 41 new marine protections

Words: Laura Edgar
St Mary's - Berwick to St Mary's could be a new Marine Conservation Zone / iStock-876659408

Environment secretary Michael Gove has set out plans to create 41 new Marine Conservation Zones across the UK, totalling nearly 12,000 square kilometres of marine habitats.

The new Blue Belt sites, now under consultation, include Berwick-upon-Tweed on the Scottish border and two sites in Northern Irish offshore waters.

If the areas proposed are approved following the consultation, activities that are deemed damaging, like dredging and “significant” coastal or offshore development, won’t be allowed to go ahead. Existing activities deemed harmful will either minimised or stopped to allow important habitats to be restored over time, the government said.

The designations will protect a number of species included the short-snouted seahorse, stalked jellyfish and peacock’s tail seaweed.

Currently, there are 50 Marine Conservation Zones, including Farnes East, off the coast of Northumberland. The first set of zones covered 3,731 square miles, while the second phase saw 4,115 square miles of marine habitats protected.

This third tranche of designations will be the last. The zones will be designated within 12 months of the six-week consultation.

Gove said: “The UK is surrounded by some of the richest and most diverse sea life in the world. We must protect these precious habitats for future generations.”

He said the new plans for marine protection “marks an important step towards completing our Blue Belt. We are creating safe havens for our cherished wildlife and putting the UK at the forefront of marine protection”.

The consultation can be found on the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs website.

Image credit | iStock