Committee launches new inquiry: Marine Protected Areas

17 December 2013

The Environmental Audit Committee is launching a new inquiry on Marine Protected Areas

Marine Protected Areas are designated to protect marine biodiversity of European or national importance. They include Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs), created under Part 5 of the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009, to protect areas that are nationally representative and important to conserve for the diversity of nationally rare or threatened habitats and species.

Different levels of protection will be applied to each MCZ, from voluntary controls to ‘reference areas’, where no damaging activities may be allowed.  The Marine Management Organisation and the Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities are developing plans and processes for putting in place management measures.

In September 2011, the Joint Nature Conservation Committee and Natural England recommended 127 potential MCZs. In November 2013, the Government announced the designation of only 27 MCZs, citing a lack of evidence for not taking forward more Zones at this stage. In April 2013, the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee had criticised (PDF 3.40 MB) the Government for increasing the level of evidence required before MCZs could be designated. More recently, the Natural Environment Research Council, which undertakes marine research, has been examining the scope for establishing some of its research bodies as independent, potentially private sector, entities.

Following up the report of the Science and Technology Committee, the Environmental Audit Committee intends now to examine:

  •  The plans for implementing the 27 so far approved MCZs.
  • How those MCZs will be monitored, managed and enforced, and the needs of different stakeholders — including fishing, leisure and extractive industries — will be balanced against environment protection.
  • The plans to improve the evidence base for considering potential further Zones, including the priorities and funding of the research bodies that will undertake the necessary research.
  • What the balance of factors should be — social and economic factors, as well as environmental factors — in considering further potential MCZs.
  • The level of ambition in the programme to establish protected areas (including MCZs), compared with the need for biodiversity protection.

The Committee is inviting evidence on these issues by Monday 27 January 2014, although later submissions may also be accepted. Evidence sessions will be held in February/March 2014.

How to submit written evidence

Evidence should be submitted through the Written Evidence portal on the inquiry page of this website.

Image: iStockphoto

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