What are Marine Conservation Zones?
Marine Conservation Zones are a type of Marine Protected Area of the British coasts. As part of a ‘blue belt‘, there aim is to protect our most vulnerable marine life and habitats from destructive human activity including trawling, pollution and leisure boating.
The zones act as nurseries for immature fish and other sea life. These rich areas of protected sea life should seed the surrounding areas with new stock increasing the fishing yield for fishermen in the open sea.
What a Marine Conservation Zone should look like from Sussex Wildlife Trust on Vimeo.
Find out more at http://www.sussexwildlifetrust.org.uk/livingseas
Film produced by The Wildlife Trusts
What progress has been made?
We now have 91 marine conservation zones in and around 250 marine protected areas in the UK. The conservation zones aim to protect important marine environments from destructive human activity including trawling, pollution and leisure boating.
Over 24% of UK waters (12 nautical miles from the coast) were in protected areas in 2018. Globally, international bodies have called for 30% of all seas and oceans to be protected.
You can view the MCZs using the JNCC universal mapper
Sussex Marine Conservation Zones
In Sussex, we have 9 Marine Conservation Zones which cover around 22% of our local seas. Among these is Beachy Head West which was one of the first areas to be designated in the UK. It runs from Brighton Marina to Eastbourne and is a wonderful spot for Rockpooling (see our Rockpooling guide).
The chalky seabed is an important environment for a number of species, including, Native oysters (Ostrea edulis), Short-snouted seahorse (Hippocampus hippocampus) and Blue mussel (Mytilus edulis) beds.
What needs to be done?
The increase in MCZs being designated is a huge step towards protecting these marine habitats, however, there needs to be investment in the proper management of these sites. According to the Blue Foundation only 5% of MPA are protected from destructive activities like trawling they say:
At the moment trawls and dredges are banned in only 5% of the area of UK marine protected areas. Incredibly, there is more trawling inside protected areas than outside and fewer fish, according to a recent study. Most of what we have today are therefore paper parks.
If we dramatically increase levels of protection for these places, we would have a world class network that would deliver the clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse oceans and seas the government aspires to. The science also says, that fisheries are better off if fishing is kept outside protected areas, because protected stocks replenish them.
Marine Conservation Zones were established through a huge army of volunteers collecting data from our shores and in the seas.
If you can’t commit much time, anyone can gather data; a trip to the beach, snorkel, dive. Just note what you find, where, when and submit the data to the Sussex Biodiversity Centre or iRecord
Join a wildlife charity!
Wildlife charities like Sussex Wildlife Trust and the Marine Conservation Society do a tremendous amount of work to help protect our seas but they need your help to keep running.
Written by Grace Brindle, Collections Assistant, Booth Museum of Natural History