New protected areas in the UK's seas have been announced to help preserve habitats and wildlife. The 23 new marine conservation zones designated by the Government include cold water coral reefs, seagrass meadows, canyons and sandbanks, and provide homes and food for wildlife ranging from seabirds and dolphins to peacock worms and stalked jellyfish, as well as commercial fish stocks.
The second tranche of protected areas covers 6,6854 sq km, (155 sq miles), bringing the total so far to 50 marine conservation zones and has been welcomed by conservationists as a step to creating a "blue belt" in the UK's seas, providing protection from harmful activities such as over-fishing.
However, Professor Callum Roberts, a leading marine conservationist form the University of York said the UK’s rich maritime life still has very little protection. Professor Roberts welcomed the new Marine Conservation Zones but said: “We need more because the network we have is far from complete. Despite the new zones, the UK’s rich marine life has very little protection” The government said it was working to ensure management measures are put in place within two years, but Roberts said: “I am deeply skeptical of what it will achieve.”
Stretching all the way from the coast of Northumberland down to Land’s End, the 23 new zones include Europe’s longest chalk reef off the coast of Cromer in Norfolk, and bring the total of Marine Conservation Zones around England to 50. These 50 zones, together with other types of protected areas, now cover 20% of all English waters, almost 12,800 sq km (8,000 sq miles).
Conservationists have generally welcomed the new zones, but they have warned that more has to be done to ensure the protected areas were properly managed.
The government will consult on the third tranche of Marine Conservation Zones in 2017.