Failed to outline a plan
Mary Creagh, Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC), said:
"The Government has not adequately responded to our concerns around Marine Protected Areas.
Specifically, it has failed to outline a plan which addresses the delays in completing the Marine Conservation Zone network, continued to exclude reference areas from these Marine Conservation Zones, and taken no action towards improving its communications strategy"
Completion of Marine Conservation Zone network
The 2015 Conservative Party Manifesto made a commitment to "complete the network of [Marine Conservation Zones] MCZs". So far, however, only 50 MCZs have been designated. This is considerably less than the 127 sites originally recommended by the regional projects in 2011. The previous EAC’s report made clear that the Government should not delay the designation of sites due to a lack of "perfect data".
The Government response states that it doesn't expect the network to be complete until 2019. This is a significant delay as the third tranche of MCZs was originally expected to be designated in 2018.
In its report the EAC made clear its disappointment that the Government had decided to exclude reference areas from the third tranche of MCZs. The Committee’s report stated that without reference areas the Government will be unable to "establish an effective and coherent MPA network, as they will have no benchmark against which to assess the effectiveness of management measures."
In its response the Government has argued that it has chosen not to proceed with reference areas as, "specific proposals in the original stakeholder engagement were too small to provide the necessary benefits". It has failed to outline, however, any other form of data that will be used to assess progress against conservation objectives.
The previous Committee argued that while MPAs should be "the jewels in Britain's crown" the Government needs to "implement a robust communications strategy that aims to raise awareness of the MPA network amongst businesses and the general public."
The Government's communications strategy in both the UK and the UKOTs, however, is still ineffective and unsatisfactory, this is despite our predecessor Committee raising this as a concern in 2014.