New wave of protection for the sea announced today

Today we welcome the news that the Government is designating a third phase of 41 new Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs). This historic move will help protect the seas around our shores and follows on from previous announcements of 50 MCZs (in 2013 and 2016). It is the third of three phases promised by the Government in order to fulfil the remit of the Marine and Coastal Access Act.

Suffolk Wildlife Trust are delighted that Orford Inshore MCZ has been included in the third phase of designations. Located 14km offshore from the Alde Ore Estuary, Orford Inshore consists almost entirely of a seafloor of mixed sediment, reaching between 20-30 metres in depth throughout. The seafloor here is extremely important as a nursery and spawning ground for many fish species, including Dover and lemon sole, sprat and sandeel. Skates, rays, small spotted catsharks and several crustacean species are also found here. The area is also thought to be of importance to foraging seabirds, such as the black-legged kittiwake, northern fulmar, northern gannet and Sandwich tern. Harbour porpoises are often spotted passing through this area on the lookout for a meal. This site is important for ensuring the connectivity in the network is maintained.

Joan Edwards, Director of Living Seas at The Wildlife Trusts, says:

“It’s fantastic news that now we have 91 Marine Conservation Zones – they will form a vital series of underwater habitats which can be nursed back to health. The Wildlife Trusts have been calling for the government to give real protection to a network of diverse sea-bed landscapes since 2009 and over 22,000 people joined our call for better protection of our seas during last summer’s consultation. Huge thanks to everyone who has supported this change! Now we need to see good management of these special places to stop damaging activities such as beam-trawling or dredging for scallops and langoustines which harm fragile marine wildlife.”

After the first 50 MCZs were designated, The Wildlife Trusts launched a Wave of Support campaign to coincide with the public consultation on the third phase. Over 22,000 people joined our call for better protection of our seas in just six weeks in the summer of 2018. The Wildlife Trusts believe that the new total of 91 MCZs are a great step forward – but now the focus must be on caring for these special places effectively so that our ocean wildlife has the best possible chance of recovery.