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MPs hit out at delays and gaps in marine protection

Words: Huw Morris

MPs have accused the government of lacking ambition for protecting UK seas and criticised delays in designating marine conservation zones.

In a highly critical report, the Commons Environmental Audit Committee said it was “shocked and disappointed” by the government’s decision to exclude highly protected areas from the third tranche of zones before it had received expert evidence.

MPs also lambasted delays in creating a “well-coordinated and ecologically coherent network of marine protected areas (MPAs). Despite the recommendation of regional projects in 2011 and a Conservative manifesto pledge in 2015 to complete a network of marine conservation zones, only 50 of the 127 recommended sites have been designated, they argue.

“It is worrying and disappointing the government have still not got their act together on assigning the vulnerable MPAs,” said committee chair Mary Creagh. “The government needs to focus on monitoring and protecting the current areas rather than moving the goal posts to create unachievable and overcomplicated demands on the management of susceptible areas. 

“Without effective management, surveillance or monitoring, our MPAs are just paper parks.”

The committee accused the government of setting “unreasonably high standards of evidence” for designating MPAs. It called on the government to do more to protect vulnerable marine habitats, features and species once a site is designated as an MPA including providing adequate funding for gathering evidence.

Marine Protected Areas Revisited can be found here.

Image: iStock