The Royal Yachting Association (RYA) has published its response to the consultation on sites proposed for designation in the second tranche of Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs).

The RYA supports the UK and devolved Governments’ shared vision for clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse oceans and seas and recognises that establishing an ecologically coherent network of marine protected areas would contribute towards achieving this vision.

The RYA believes that in most cases this vision can be achieved without any adverse effect on either the public right or the safety of navigation for recreational boating.

In the RYA’s view, three key issues are critical to recreational boating interests in both the designation and management of MCZs. These are:

  • The impact of MPAs on legitimate uses of the sea
  • The need for objective and robust evidence in the decision-making process
  • The proportionality, enforceability and effectiveness of proposals

The RYA has been involved in the MCZ process since the early days of the regional projects in 2009 where we contributed at a local and national level to all elements of the stakeholder led process.

With over 105,000 personal members, the majority of whom choose to go afloat for purely recreational non-competitive pleasure on coastal and inland waters, the RYA is recognised by Government as being the primary consultative body for the activities it represents.

The RYA has considered the Government’s proposals in detail to ensure that they are based on objective and robust evidence, and that any potential impacts on recreational boating interests are minimised.

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The RYA’s response covered a number of overarching issues related to the MCZ identification and recommendation process as part of the second tranche consultation, which closed on 24 April 2015.

The boating body also provided detailed input on each of the proposed sites and a number of previously recommended sites which have not been considered suitable for designation at this time, but that remain under consideration for future designation.

Management measures

As yet, no firm management measures have been developed for any proposed, recommended or designated MCZ for any activities other than commercial fishing.

The RYA has pointed out from the outset the difficulty that the absence of information about proposed management measures presents to those considering the impact of site designation on particular activities.

The RYA fully supports the Government’s decision not to designate sites where further detailed engagement with local interests is required prior to designation.

Emma Barton, RYA planning and environmental manager, said: ‘We will continue to support the designation process while striving to minimise the potential impact of MCZs on the navigational rights and safety of recreational boaters.

‘During the consultation period, we worked closely with our regional network of volunteers to ensure that the interests of RYA affiliated clubs and members were reflected in our response.

‘Our thanks go to all those who provided information and we will look forward to the Government’s response to the issues we have raised.’

Next steps

The Government’s response to the second tranche consultation is expected at the end of January 2016.  A third tranche of proposed sites will follow later in 2016, and will aim to complete the English component of the UK’s contribution to a network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in the North East Atlantic.

RYA Northern Ireland, RYA Scotland and RYA Cymru Wales are also engaging with the ongoing MPA process in their respective countries with support from the RYA nationally.