RYA praises 'sensible' approach to proposed Marine Conservation Zones

A Government consultation has begun on plans to introduce designating Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) in England.

This consultation seeks views on plans to establish a coherent network of Marine Protected Areas and MCZs in English inshore and English and

Welsh offshore waters.

Everyone with an interest

in the marine environment and coastal communities is welcome to have a say on

how many MCZs are designated, where they are designated and for what

features.

The Royal Yachting Association (RYA) has described the Government’s approach as ‘sensible.

Of the 31 sites proposed in the consultation for designation in 2013 the RYA has objections to just one site – Aln Estuary, which contains a small charted anchorage in

the one location in which a vessel can stay afloat at all states of the

tide.

The RYA will be seeking to retain access to this

resource.

One of the most contentious sites originally touted for MCZ status, Studland Bay, is not included in the list of areas up for designation.

Caroline Price, RYA planning and environment advisor, said: ‘The phased approach that Government is proposing appears on the face of it to be very sensible.  
 
‘The RYA has been resolute in insisting that a MCZ should be no larger than required to protect the habitats and wildlife features which it is intended to protect and that the scientific basis for designating a particular feature for protection should be sound.
 
‘We are pleased therefore to see that Ministers have recognised that they need to have a strong evidence base when looking to designate sites, from both an ecological and socio-economic perspective
 
‘We are particularly encouraged that the approach to highly protected sites is being reviewed as the proposals for Reference Areas are of great concern to us.’

She added: ‘We mustn’t forget that this public consultation does not include the

management measures that may be introduced once a site has been

designated.

‘Responses to this consultation therefore are confined only

to the site boundaries and the conservation objectives for protected

features.
 
‘This is why the issue of a strong

evidence base is important at this stage because it will be on the

basis of that evidence that the management measures will be devised in

the future.

‘The omission of the detail of management measures

from this consultation means that we still don’t really know what

designation will actually mean to the local community.’

The RYA does have on-going concerns about a number of other sites being considered for designation at some point in the future and is continuing in its discussions with Defra and the Statutory Nature Conservation Bodies (SNCBs) about these and will be highlighting them in its response to this consultation.

The RYA is broadly supportive of government plans but has pledged to protect the public right of navigation and to ensure, as far as is possible, that recreational boating interests are not adversely affected by the designation of such MCZs.

Management measures will be devised by regulators and public authorities such as the Marine Management Organisation (MMO), who should decide with local stakeholders how each of their conservation zones will be managed.
 
There is currently no information on how this will happen but the indications from the MMO are that voluntary measures will play a key role. Management measures could potentially place restrictions on certain activities in a MCZ and for recreational boating this may include restrictions on anchoring or the laying of race marks.


To take part in the consultation before the closing date of 31 March 2013 click here.

Although this particular consultation seeks views on the 31 sites being recommended for designation in 2013, Defra would welcome comments on all other sites being considered. They are also keen to receive general comments, particularly in relation to the approach to Reference Areas.
 
Further information on the RYA’s response to this consultation is available on the RYA website.