19 July 2012
The Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) and Natural England have presented the formal Advice Package on 127 recommended Marine Conservation Zones to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).
This advice marks the latest step towards the Government’s objective to create a well-managed network of Marine Protected Areas to help protect the range of habitats and species in our seas by the end of 2016. The Advice Package is being provided to Defra to support the decisions the Environment Minister will make on the designation of MCZs after a formal public consultation is held (the consultation will start in December 2012).
The process for making recommendations on where MCZs could be located has been unique, since sea users have been at the centre of it. For two years, four regional MCZ projects have worked extensively with specially formed groups of regional stakeholders involving representatives of different organisations, regulators, interest groups and individuals whose activities might be affected by MCZs. Balanced Seas represented the south-east; Finding Sanctuary the south-west; Irish Seas Conservation Zones the Irish Sea; and Net Gain represented the North Sea. These four regional MCZ projects submitted their final recommendations to JNCC and Natural England in September 2011.
Since then, JNCC and Natural England have assessed the ecological implications of the four projects’ recommendations for MCZs, and the ecological evidence base for the sites. At the same time, economists from the four regional MCZ projects have prepared socio-economic impact assessments for each MCZ, as well as for all the sites combined.
All of this information – the regional MCZ projects’ recommendations (from September 2011), the regional MCZ projects’ impact assessments, and JNCC and Natural England’s formal advice regarding the ecological evidence – is being brought together to make up the Advice Package presented to Defra on 18th July.
Between now and the end of the year, Defra will assess each component of the Advice Package and will provide its own impact assessment, which will be used during the three month public consultation that will open in December 2012. Following the consultation, it is anticipated that the Minister will select:
• Sites that are backed by robust evidence, to designate in summer 2013
• Sites where further evidence is required, to designate at a later stage
• Sites that are not considered suitable to progress
Once the first wave of MCZs is designated in summer 2013, JNCC and Natural England will provide their conservation advice packages for each site to help inform how these sites should be managed. Management measures will be proposed by the appropriate regulatory authority for each designated MCZ and finalised following local consultations and input from sea users and other interested parties.
James Marsden, Director Marine at Natural England, said: “The formal handover of the Advice Package marks the latest stage for Marine Conservation Zones, and provides Government with a comprehensive ecological assessment of the recommended MCZs that will be subject to wide-ranging public consultation in December. Over the last three years, the four regional sea user groups have put in a huge amount of effort to produce their recommendations, and we are enormously grateful for their immense hard work and dedication. Natural England and JNCC commend the work that has been done and the process used to steer this project through safely to the next important phase.”
John Goold, Director of Marine Advice at JNCC, said: “Since the recommendations were handed over to JNCC and Natural England last September, we have been assessing how well these recommended sites meet the ecological guidance set out at the start of the project. The regional MCZ projects’ recommendations are an epic achievement by a huge number of people, and we estimate that the organisations engaged by the regional MCZ projects have, through their membership, shared data representing over 600,000 stakeholders. The recommendations show good progress towards achieving an ecologically coherent network, with the aim of combining recommended MCZs with existing MPAs. We are pleased to submit our advice to Defra, so they can begin to evaluate it in earnest, and we look forward to the next steps.”
1. For more information:
a) Inshore recommended MCZ sites (0-12 nautical miles), contact Michelle Hawkins, press officer, Natural England on 0300 060 1109 or email@example.com
b) Offshore recommended MCZ sites (12 – 200 nautical miles), contact JNCC’s press office on 01733 866 839 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The Government’s two Statutory Nature Conservation Bodies have different geographical remits with JNCC advising on nature conservation between 12 - 200 nautical miles of UK waters, and Natural England advising within 0 - 12 nautical miles of English waters.
2. The Advice Package:
The Advice Package contains three components:
a) The final recommendations for MCZs made by the four regional MCZ projects in September 2011, unchanged:
Balanced Seas (south east): http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20120502155440/http:/www.balancedseas.org/
Finding Sanctuary (south west):
Irish Sea Conservation Zones (Irish Sea):
Net Gain (North Sea):
b) An impact assessment developed for each MCZ, and a combined summary, made by the economists from the four regional MCZ projects:
The impact assessment section:
• summarises the information presented in the four regional MCZ projects’ recommendations
• summarises the benefit of designating the recommended MCZs
• identifies activities that would need to be managed in order for the proposed conservation objectives of the recommended sites to be achieved
• identifies possible management measures
• assesses the impact of designating the recommended MCZs on different sectors on a site-by-site basis, and a regional basis where appropriate
• provides information on the evidence used to identify the possible management measures and assess the impact of designation
c) The statutory nature conservation advice made by JNCC and Natural England assessing the ecological implications of the recommendations, and the ecological evidence base for the sites:
The statutory nature conservation advice section covers:
• an overview of the regional project process used to identify possible Marine Conservation Zones
• advice on the creation of an ecologically coherent network of Marine Protected Areas
• JNCC and Natural England’s view of the regional project recommendations
• an assessment of the scientific certainty of the regional project recommendations
• an assessment of the most at risk sites/priority sites for protection
3. The MCZ Advice Package is available to read on both JNCC and Natural England’s web sites:
JNCC’s web site: http://jncc.defra.gov.uk/page-6228
Natural England’s web site: http://www.naturalengland.org.uk/ourwork/marine/mpa/mcz/advice.aspx
4. The MCZ Project process and statistics
As a result of the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009, four regional MCZ projects were set up involving representatives of different organisations, regulators, interest groups and individuals – known as stakeholders – whose activities might be affected by MCZs. Balanced Seas represented the south-east; Finding Sanctuary the south-west; Irish Seas Conservation Zones the Irish Sea; and Net Gain represented the North Sea. The process used for identifying where MCZs should be located was unique, in that it put sea users (‘regional stakeholder groups’) at the centre.
Designed to protect the range of habitats and species in our seas, MCZs are a new form of Marine Protected Area (MPA) – which is an important tool to protect the marine environment. They help society use the goods and services provided by the sea in a sustainable manner.
The regional MCZ projects conducted over 2,300 interviews with stakeholders to gather information on their use of the sea, organised over 150 regional or local events, and engaged with an estimated 600,000 sea users by liaising with numerous organisations and their memberships. These four regional MCZ projects submitted their final recommendations to JNCC and Natural England in September 2011.