New campaign to protect Suffolk's seas

Suffolk Wildlife Trust calling on people to join wave of support for 41 new Marine Conservation Zones, including first ever site for Suffolk

Today Suffolk Wildlife Trust is joining with all of the UK's Wildlife Trusts to launch a new campaign with – #WaveOfSupport – to give everyone across the country the chance to back 41 new Marine Conservation Zones and protect our part of the Blue Planet around the English coast.

Recently, the government launched a consultation asking the public for their views about protecting a new group of Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) – areas at sea where wildlife is protected from damaging activities.

A total of 41 special places, including a site in Suffolk, have been chosen for the public to comment on; from seagrass meadows in Dorset’s Studland Bay, to special mud habitats in the Irish Sea.

The site being considered is in Suffolk is an area known as Orford Inshore. Lying 14km offshore and adjacent to the Alde Ore Estuary the site contains a large area of mixed sediments (increasing habitat for different species) and is home to many flatfish species, including dover and lemon sole, sprat and sandeels use these areas as well as skates, rays and small spotted catsharks. In the English North Sea region, nine MCZs have already been designated and protection of this site would help effectively connect these “wilder” areas of sea.

Julian Roughton, Chief Executive of Suffolk Wildlife Trust, said: “The sea-beds around the UK are wild, yet fragile places that too often they have been ravaged by intensive fishing techniques. The designation of more MCZs in Suffolk and elsewhere will be an important step towards helping our marine life to recover, both for the good of wildlife and people. We hope that our members and supporters will add their voice to this consultation and create a giant wave of support for Suffolk’s seas.”

Unfortunately another Suffolk site, the Alde Ore Estuary itself, with its sheltered muddy gravels that provide vital nursery grounds for fish such as the rapidly declining smelt, is no longer being considered as an MCZ.

Mr Roughton added: “We are obviously very disappointed that Defra has decided not to include the Alde Ore Estuary in this consultation, but we will be working with Natural England to see if its special features can be included in a review of the site’s SSSI designation.”

Joan Edwards, Director of Living Seas at The Wildlife Trusts said: “It’s rare that people get a chance to influence the future of our precious seas and the beautiful but fragile wild places and animals that live there. Since The Wildlife Trusts’ president emeritus, Sir David Attenborough, brought us the Blue Planet series, there’s been a surge of interest in the wonders of marine life coupled with horror at the threats facing the delicate marine environment.”

Commenting on the Government’s consultation which opened on June 8, Joan Edwards said at the time: “We’ve been calling for the government to give real protection to a connected network of diverse sea-bed habitats since 2009. Only 50 Marine Conservation Zones have been designated so far and this new consultation on 41 special places is really good news.

"We need to restore the sea-bed that has been ravaged over the past century and allow fragile marine life to recover – and this can only be done with good management. Without these astonishing submerged landscapes there simply wouldn't be any fish, let alone fantastic jewel anemones, seahorses, and all the other wild and extraordinary creatures which are part of a healthy marine ecosystem.”

None of the MCZs will be designated unless there is public support for their protection. That’s why The Wildlife Trusts are urging the public to have their say and join a giant #WaveOfSupport e-action campaign which sends a message to government calling for all 41 potential MCZs to be recognised and protected.

You have until Friday July 20 to make their views know. The e-action can be completed here www.wildlifetrusts.org/waveofsupport