Checking Lundy lobsters
Lundy's marine recovery
The creation of a marine nature reserve and no fishing zone off Lundy Island is being hailed as a major success. The experiment, introduced five years ago, could now become the blueprint for protecting the UK's marine environment.
England's only marine nature reserve off the coast of Lundy Island, is being cited as a blueprint for protecting marine life around the rest of the UK.
Sea life has flourished since people were banned from catching fish, lobsters and crabs from an area east of Lundy Island in January 2003.
In a report issued to mark the fifth anniversary of the Lundy scheme, the Government's nature body, Natural England, says it would like to see more marine nature reserves around the English coast.
Dr Helen Phillips, Chief Executive of Natural England, said: "It is clear that Marine Protected Areas work.
The Lundy coastline
"The signs from Lundy on its fifth birthday are extremely encouraging and show the major contribution that these areas can make to the wildlife in our seas.
"However, the ultimate success of these sites of conservation are inextricably linked to long-term funding and public support."
The Lundy reserve, which includes a 'no-take' fishing zone, was devised to reduce the impact of fishing on the marine environment.
A four-year monitoring programme has been undertaken by Dr Miles Hoskin, on behalf of Natural England.
His research shows that lobsters in particular are rapidly increasing in size and abundance within the reserve. And for the first time, it appears the benefits of this are spreading to surrounding areas.
These important findings support evidence from other international Marine Protected Areas, which have also seen beneficial effects over a wider area.
Sunset cup corals. Photo: Natural England
National and international marine scientists met in October 2007 to discuss taking the project forward by creating a network of Marine Protected Areas similar to the Lundy reserve.
They concluded that safeguarding marine life requires political will and leadership.
"England is fortunate to have such a rich marine heritage," added Dr Phillips.
"It is vital that action is taken to improve the health of our coasts and seas for the benefit of wildlife and the communities whose livelihoods depend upon them.
"We look forward to a Marine Bill that delivers a network of Marine Protected Areas and therefore secures the long-term protection of our precious marine environment."
England has some of the finest marine wildlife in Europe, with dramatic underwater habitats and landscapes, and over 10,000 types of plant and animal.
Natural England plans to raise awareness among the public of these amazing underwater landscapes which are currently out of sight and out of mind.
Lundy Island lies 12 miles (19 kilometres) north of the Devon coast in the Bristol Channel.
As well as being England's only Marine Nature Reserve, it is also a designated European Special Area of Conservation.
last updated: 15/05/2008 at 12:18