Environmental Audit Committee's report's recommendations could impact recreational boaters, says RYA

The Royal Yachting Association (RYA) has hit back at a report linked to Marine Conservation Zones, which it says could impact recreational boaters.

Back in the Spring the RYA, the national governing body for all forms of boating, gave evidence to the Environmental Audit

Committee’s examination of a range of topics relating to Marine

Protected Areas (MPA) and Marine Conservation Zones (MCZ).


The Committee has now published its findings and the RYA is discouraged by its recommendations that Government should ‘follow a precautionary principle approach to designations based if need be on ‘the best available data’ and the impact this may have on recreational boating.


Government had originally committed in 2010 to make designations of MCZs

on the basis of ‘best available evidence’. However, Government advisory

bodies indicated that whilst recommendations could be made on that

basis, designations should require higher levels of evidence.


RYA planning and environmental manager Caroline Price said: ‘It is our view that a strong evidence base is essential to support

decisions that could have socio-economic impacts and effects on people’s

livelihoods.

‘Simply relying on the “best available evidence”,

irrespective of its scientific rigour, is in our view unacceptable.’


‘As the sites being considered for designation in Tranche 2 (T2) are

notably more contentious than those put forward in Tranche 1 the need

for robust data becomes even more important. Not only is quality data

necessary from a scientific perspective, it is essential for stakeholder

confidence.


‘Successful management of any future MCZs will rely on buy-in from the

local and wider community. If decisions are made on poor data this

process is likely to be hamstrung from the outset.’


Lack of information from Government


The RYA welcomes many of the recommendations made in the report. In

particular the absence of any comprehensive published explanation of

many aspects of the marine conservation zone (MCZ) process remains an

on-going issue for all stakeholders.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra’s) selective approach to

stakeholder engagement in relation to Tranche 2 (T2) merely exacerbates

stakeholders’ concerns in this regard.


Lack of clarity on management measures

The RYA have consistently articulated the need for management measures to

form an integral part of the designation process. Without clarity on

what designation will actually mean for boaters it is extremely

difficult to analyse the potential impact of any proposed MCZ.


The RYA remains supportive of the principle of marine protected areas

and will continue to vigorously to represent the interests of

recreational boaters as the MCZ process progresses.

Read more from the RYA on MCZs.

Images credited to: Marine Scotland Image Bank