Huge wave of support for Marine Conservation Zones

The Government’s consultation on a third tranche of Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) drew to a close on Friday 20th July.
Common seals, photo by Julie Ackroyd

Common seals, photo by Julie Ackroyd

The Government is proposing to protect 41 more sites around the country by designating them as MCZs.

In the six short weeks of the consultation, 1,198 individuals have taken the time to sign and return Kent Wildlife Trust’s campaign postcards supporting the designation of these sites. Numerous more people have signed the Wildlife Trusts’ national Wave of Support campaign online, which has gathered a staggering 22,107 signatures within a month.  

Kent Wildlife Trust has submitted a full formal response to the consultation, welcoming the proposal to designate five more MCZs in and adjacent to Kent’s seas.  

The proposed MCZs would provide vital protection for nationally important habitats and species.  Among the proposed sites is the famous Goodwin Sands, where seals haul out on the shallow sandbanks and forage for the fish that live off the abundance of tiny creatures in and on the seabed.  A site around Swanscombe in the Thames Estuary would protect the extremely rare tentacled lagoon worm and the rich muddy banks of the Thames.   Three proposed offshore sites – Foreland, Kentish Knock and Inner Bank - feature a diversity of sediment and rock habitats.  

We are thrilled to see the response we have received from our members and other Kent residents.
Bryony Chapman
Marine Policy Officer for Kent Wildlife Trust

The consultation also proposes to protect additional features in existing MCZs, including the beautiful stalked jellyfish in the Thanet Coast MCZ, and delicate reefs in the Dover to Deal MCZ, constructed by tiny rossworms that provide habitat structure for a host of other animals.  

Together with the six MCZs that were previously designated around Kent, these new sites, if designated, will form critical components of the national network of marine protected areas that is so desperately needed to return our seas to health.  

While enthusiastically welcoming this third batch of designations, our response raises a number of concerns about some serious omissions from the consultation.   For example, the globally rare habitat of subtidal chalk remains unprotected between Dover and Folkestone; the incredibly rich diversity of animals living in the mud of Hythe Bay has declined in recent years, and yet has not been included in the proposals for protection. 

The small site around Swanscombe is all that remains of the previously much larger site along the Thames, recommended to protect a wider range of habitats and species. 

Bryony Chapman, Marine Policy Officer for Kent Wildlife Trust, said: “We are thrilled to see the response we have received from our members and other Kent residents.   We now face a long wait until the results of the consultation are announced, and we hope that the strong voice in favour of better protection of our seas will have been heard loud and clear in Westminster.”

Tompot blenny, photo by Dave Wood

Photo by Dave Wood

Protecting Our Seas

All our lives are dependent on the bounty of the seas, from the food we eat to the air we breathe and the climate we inhabit. The seas around Kent are home to a wonderful diversity of life, from sponges to seahorses, from starfish to seals. This wildlife should be safe, but sadly it is under increasing threat from over-exploitation and damage. Our seas are in desperate need of protection.

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