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Marine Protection Zones Announced

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10:10am 21st November 2013
(Updated 10:10am 21st November 2013)

Cornwall's sea gets more protection.

Six Marine Protection Zones are going to be set up in places like Padstow and the Isles of Scilly.

They will restrict fishing and other activities that could damage the environment.

Campaigners are disappointed more were not included.

But Camborne and Redruth MP George Eustice has been involved and says you have to put it into context: "We already have sites of Scientific Special Interest which protect a lot of our estuaries and there's one in Hayle and another one on the Helford Passage. There are also other marine protected areas designated at a European level and the Marine Conservation Zones are a development and extension of those.

"Basically we want to prioritise and start on a group and we announced that there was that group of 31 that we wanted to look at first because we thought that the evidence and the scientific evidence were strongest for those. It doesn't rule out obviously doing other things in the future."

Across the UK 27 zones have been designated. The Marine Conservation Society has welcomed the announcement. "This announcement is a significant milestone for marine conservation", says Melissa Moore, MCS Senior Policy Officer. "We urge Government to bring forward designation of future tranches to prevent many threatened seabed habitats being further damaged - these 27 sites represent less than a quarter of the number recommended by  scientists to complete an 'ecologically coherent' network."

The MCS said it will be looking for clarity on the management for these sites, as the Government's commitment to protect marine wildlife will only be delivered if effective measures are put in place to look after them.  

"The MCZs will be multi-use, so low-impact fishing such as potting will be permitted in most sites. However, effective regulatory measures may need to be established to protect vulnerable sites from damaging activities such as scallop dredging and bottom trawling." Melissa Moore Says. "It is vital that within these sites there is a clear notion of what can and can't happen, and who is responsible for policing those activities, otherwise we're just creating paper parks."

The sites in the Duchy are:

Upper Fowey and Pont Pill

Extending all the way up to the Lostwithiel Bridge the site includes a wonderful saltmarsh habitat. The upper Fowey is particularly valuable as it is a rocky estuarine habitat which is rare in the South-West. Estuaries are nutrient-rich habitats and provide food and shelter for many marine species.

Not only is the saltmarsh important for the nationally rare wasp spider and the short-winged conehead grasshopper, the estuarine area also forms a migration route for the endangered European eel into the rivers' network, where it matures.

Whitsand and Looe Bay

Including Looe Island Marine Nature Reserve, it's got a fantastic array of habitats. Including highly productive estuarine environments, seagrass beds, sheltered muddy environments and large subtidal sediment banks and reefs.

The large scale of this MCZ is also of specific importance, as a corridor of different marine habitats will be included within one marine conservation zone.

The Manacles

Habitats range from rocky reefs to vertical rock faces with large cobbles and boulders grading into sandy sediment.

Its valuable rocky reef habitat is home to the pink sea fan, cup coral and jewel anemones. Commercially important species such as mackerel and bass are also found here. The diverse marine life make this area popular with divers.

The Manacles has lots of harbour porpoise activity.

The Canyons

330km south-west of Land's End on the continental shelf break, with depths ranging from 200m in the east of the site to 2000m in the west.

Along the edge of the continental shelf, at around 130 - 350m, there are large numbers of anemones, with hermit crabs dominating coarse grounds in shallower waters.

The shape of the seabed leads to an upwelling of nutrient-rich water, so seas are highly productive, with higher than average sightings of seabirds and cetaceans.

Padstow Bay and surrounds

Trevone and Trebetherick host the most extensive rocky shores on the north Cornwall coast, home to. algae grazing limpets, filter feeding mussels and barnacles. The rare Celtic sea slug has even been recorded at Trebetherick.

The Bull near Trevose Head offers a different marine community altogether; a kelp forest provides shelter for many species including fish and crustaceans such as the crawfish and European spider crab. Blue mussel beds are also found here. Bottlenose dolphins have been recorded using the area and Moule Island, off the Rumps, is home to the largest nesting colony of puffins in Cornwall

Isles of Scilly Sites

This area is made up of 11 individual zones around the Isles of Scilly.

Covering a wide range of habitats, the area varies in depth from sea level to approximately 70 metres deep. Rocky reefs provide habitat for species such as the spiny lobster whilst diverse and extensive beds of seagrass provide valuable habitat for both the short-snouted and spiny seahorse.

Rare and fragile species are also found here including sunset cup corals and pink sea fans along with sponge, soft coral and anemone communities.

This area contains excellent examples of rocky habitats, which support abundant marine life. Nooks and crannies provide shelter and a solid foundation for species to cling to.

10:10am 21st November 2013

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