Much of our marine wildlife is in decline. To take just one example: the population of the Basking Shark has decreased by 95 per cent since 1900. In 2009 the EU Commission declared that 88 per cent of marine fish stocks are over exploited.
One solution to this problem is through conservation areas and protected zones to safeguard important habitats and wildlife. Currently, less than one percent of our seas are protected – proposals in the UK Marine Act plan to establish 127 Marine Conservation Zones. Yet recent government announcements see these plans being delayed, and possibly scraped.
The Wildlife Trusts have launched the Petition Fish campaign to remind the government about the importance of protecting the seas and the need for a complete network of Marine Conservation Zones. Marine Protected Areas –or Marine Conservation Zones- are important for creating a network that offers protection not just for rare and vulnerable marine life but a full range of marine life.
|127 Proposed Marine Conservation Zones in red
This is the second outing of the Wildlife Trusts’ Petition Fish; the first one helped establish the Marine Bill in 2009. Now these conservation zones face being axed by Secretary for the Natural Environment and Fisheries, Richard Benyon. On Thursday last week, Benyon made a statement that only some of the proposed Marine Conservation Zones had sufficient scientific evidence and that more evidence was needed for many of the 127 zones. Head of Living Seas at the Wildlife Trusts Joan Edwards says, ‘we understand that there is need to tweak the data but we believe that there is enough evidence to designate all 127.’ She adds, ‘Defra have changed the goal posts, they are now saying they need more evidence to go ahead which is contrary to what the Minister stated when he first entered office.’
‘We are asking people to sign up to Petition Fish because it is really important to demonstrate the public need for Marine Protected Areas,’ Joan says. ‘We really need public pressure to make the government realise that in order to protect our marine environments one of the best things we can do is to establish an ecological coherent network of Marine Protected Areas and 23 Marine Conservations Zones is not going to do the job, we need all 127’
The Marine Protected Areas are just boxes on a map at the moment, Joan urges people to give the sites personality, ‘we want people to go The Wildlife Trusts Website and learn about the zones, discover that they have a name and are not just numbers, we want to make them real, bring them to life, we want people to own these sites and demand that they are designated and protected. When Government consult on the zones we would like members of the public to actually write in to the Minister for their zone to be designated.’
Joan explains that there is still a lot more work to do, at the moment no zones have been put forward for mobile species such as basking sharks or sea birds, ‘even if we got all 127 the job isn’t done, the Government need to do a lot more to establish an ecological coherent network.’
Sign Petition Fish, text 'FISH' with your name and postcode to 60777 to show your support or add a scale to a fish at your local Wildlife Trust chapter to put pressure on government to create Marine Protected Areas that helps the UK's marine wildlife. The signed fish will be taken to parliament and hung up to raise awareness.
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