Essex Wildlife Trust welcomes the news that the Government is designating a third phase of 41 new Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs). Off the Essex coast this means two new MCZs, Kentish Knock East and Swanscombe in the Thames Estuary. This historic move will help protect the seas around our shores and follows on from previous announcements of 50 MCZs (in 2013 and 2016). It is the third of three phases promised by the Government in order to fulfil the remit of the Marine and Coastal Access Act.
The 41 new MCZs provide an astonishingly varied range of submerged landscapes which support the stunning diversity of marine life found in the UK. They include Kentish Knock East MCZ which supports commercially important flatfish and larger species such as catsharks and rays, and Swanscombe MCZ within the Thames Estuary, an important feeding ground for wading birds and home to the rare Tentacled lagoon worm. These will contribute towards a network of areas which is urgently needed to ensure a healthy future for our seas.
Rachel Langley, Living Seas Coordinator at Essex Wildlife Trust, says: “We are absolutely delighted that there have been additions to our Marine Conservation Zone network off of the Essex coast. This is the first step in ensuring our marine life gets the protection it needs to thrive. This is a great step forward – now the focus must be on caring for these special places effectively so that our ocean wildlife can be allowed to recover and thrive again.”
The designation of the Blackwater, Crouch, Roach and Colne Estuary MCZ in 2013 was the first dedicated marine conservation zone off of Essex. There is now a management plan for the site, aimed at working with all stakeholders to prevent declines in native oysters and aid recovery of this much-loved species.
After the first 50 MCZs were designated, The Wildlife Trusts launched a Wave of Support campaign to coincide with the public consultation on the third phase. Over 22,000 people joined our call for better protection of our seas in just six weeks in the summer of 2018. The Wildlife Trusts believe that the new total of 91 MCZs are a great step forward – but now the focus must be on caring for these special places effectively so that our ocean wildlife has the best possible chance of recovery.