Who is all at sea?

The Marine and Coastal Access Act of 2009 was one of the major environmental achievements of the last Labour government but, to be fair, the Shadow Defra team, including Richard Benyon who is now a junior Defra minister, were very supportive of the thrust of the legislation too.  At times, the progress of the Act became as much of a team effort as you are ever likely to get in an adversarial political system.

But now the Wildlife Trusts are warning that the promised coherent network of Marine Conservation Zones promised by the coalition (although there is no Liberal Democrat in Defra) government is under threat.  They fear that fewer than 30 (maybe low 20s) of the 127 marine sites around the coast of England which have been identified by regional stakeholder groups will actually go forward to Defra.

Is this because the criteria for choosing sites were changed very late in the process by the JNCC?  If so, did Defra nudge any changes that happened?  Is it not a monumental waste of people’s time to ask them to contribute according to one set of rules, in a Big Society kind of way, and then make their deliberations academic by changing criteria?

This sounds very odd and extremely worrying.

More should become evident early next week when this blog will, no doubt, return to this subject.  If anyone has a good idea of what is happening then I’d be interested to hear from them.

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3 Replies to “Who is all at sea?”

  1. One could be forgiven for thinking that some people pay lip service to the idea of protection and conservation, but when it really comes down to it they are only interested in gaining public opinion, not in the actual issues themselves.

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  2. As many as 20? That's fantastic news! I thought it was just going to be a phone vote for that nation to choose its favourite. Is Brighton or Blackpool on the list . . . ?

    It's long past coming and to choose a measly twenty-odd sites would be a travesty. As an island race our history and traditions give us a unique and important connection with the sea. We're not only stewards of the land but also of the sea and our coasts.

    At a time when the marine environment is under incredible pressure from human interference and abuse it's essential we step up and protect those most vulnerable and special places.

    It's important to try and minimise the impact and also to use the opportunity to better understand the areas identified for protected status. They've not just been plucked out of a hat for no good reason.

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  3. Mark - someone from the WT asked Richard Benyon about this at the All Party Parliamentary Group on biodiversity last thursday. The minister's explanation was that the evidence available to the science advisory committee had been considered sufficient to designate only 26 (or was it 23? I forget). He said this was "very very" disappointing to him. He was quite insistent that didn't necessarily mean the other 100-odd would never be designated. There might be evidence not brought to bear or evidence might need collecting, he said.

    Cue interesting but ultimately inconclusive discussion on evidence, is there ever enough, especially at sea, and do you sometimes need to act despite a lack of certainty.

    Oh, and the timetable on MCZs is "tight" and there might be "some slippage". Quel surprise.

    Have you heard any more on the late-arriving guidance on evidence?

    The minister always seems very earnest, well informed and personally committed but when he says the England Biodiversity Strategy is a "key government priority" he is less convincing!

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