Cash shortage stretches to sea bed

 
Stalked jellyfish Species such as this stalked jellyfish could benefit from marine protected zones

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The government has admitted moving slowly to protect wildlife in the seas because of the cost.

Environment Minister Richard Benyon said that in the current financial squeeze he could not designate as many areas for protection as he would like.

He said he was hoping to confirm the designation of the current tranche of 31 Marine Conservation Zones under a consultation that ends on Sunday.

Environmentalists have accused the government of dragging its feet.

This is because 127 zones were originally nominated for protection after a compromise deal agreed with other users of the sea.

Jolyon Chesworth from the Wildlife Trusts said: "We are disappointed at the rate of progress. The government has an international obligation to protect wildlife in the seas.

Start Quote

I want to do as many zones as we can for as little as we can”

End Quote Richard Benyon Environment minister

"The marine environment is not as obvious to people as it is when they see wildlife walking through a woodland or downland but it's just as important and equally worthy of protection.

"The 127 zones were only nominated after very long discussions with anglers, sailors and the fishing industry. We are now being asked to compromise on a compromise."

But Mr Benyon told the BBC that with cuts to the Defra budget, the cost of making scientific assessments and then developing rules for the use of different areas could not be dismissed.

"We are constrained by a hugely expensive process at a time when we have little money in government," he said.

"I want to do as many zones as we can for as little as we can. People have waited many years for this; we will designate the first tranche in September and will announce the next lot for consultation then."

Environmentalists are worried that the UK might slither back from its international commitment to create an ecologically coherent network of sites.

They are angry that several key sites have been left out of the first tranche on the grounds that insufficient evidence was supplied to justify them.

Sailors' fears

Mr Chesworth said that in his south of England region there was a cast-iron case for designating, among others, Bembridge Levels on the Isle of Wight - home of the stalked jellyfish and Poole Harbour - a key breeding ground for sea horses.

But both of these zones have been contested by sailors who fear that new rules will prevent them anchoring on sensitive sites. One boat owner on the Isle of Wight told Mr Benyon that the designations were "bonkers".

Boaters are the mainstay of the local economy and have lived in harmony with wildlife for decades, he said.

John Pockett, a local yachtsman, told the BBC: "We fear we won't be able to anchor our yachts; we fear we won't be able to train our next Ben Ainslie (the Olympian) because we won't be able to anchor marker boats."

Sailors are not the only ones protesting. In some areas fishing crews object to MPZs, even though they are supposed to provide a breeding ground for fish stocks to recover.

Conservationists warn that recently revealed chalk arches off the North Norfolk coast could be destroyed by one careless pass of a trawl net.

A further complication is the fact that UK jurisdiction ends six nautical miles from the shore, even though its responsibility for wildlife stretches further.

"It would be terrible to stop our own fishermen from exploiting a sensitive areas then allow boats of other nationalities to come in," Mr Benyon said. "We are trying to negotiate this with Brussels."

The proposals stem from the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009. If all the sites had been approved, just over a quarter of English waters would end up under some kind of protection. Currently, the total is way under 1%.

Globally just 0.6% of the world's oceans have been protected, compared to almost 13% of our planet's land area.

Marine author Callum Roberts told the BBC: "There's no way you'll have an effective network of marine-protected areas the way we are going. It's undermining trust."

But public sector cutbacks are a reality. And the government insists that the state of the economy will inevitably be felt on the sea bed, like everywhere else.

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  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 128.

    37.starfish
    "- isn't safe navigation the responsibility of the skipper?"

    Safe navigation includes being ble to anchor where necessary, but I didn't say I anchored at Lundy.

    I wouldn't know about crystal clear waters off Turkey as I don't fly, I sail using the wind. Water clarity round Britain is mostly affected by strong tides and silt, but I guess Turkey doesn't benefit from this.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 127.

    It's one disaster after another, plastics in the oceans are devastating wildlife and entering the food chain. The sea continues to be used as a tip and restaurant, with the ever increasing disregard for anything to do with the environment the future remains bleak. People amaze me with their self-centred ignorance, unbelievable!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 126.

    >> So maybe it's about time they stuck their heads under & started to give a...

    Easter message?
    Face our fears & "give a..."

    Sea beds, economies, wars ...might just work; might just work!

    Gotta be worth a try folks?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 125.

    @105.Conner De Public
    "Most of the people in the UK are just trying to keep their heads above water..."

    So maybe it's about time they stuck their heads UNDER it & started to give a... !!
    :-)

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 124.

    @ 105.Conner De Public

    "Most of the people in the UK are just trying to keep their heads above water..."

    No they're not - what a ridiculous comment... People like you seem to think that "hardship" is a 5 minute delay on your daily commute or the price of sherry rising ever so slightly.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 123.

    I worked briefly on a fishery patrol ship some years ago. We caught a French trawler dragging its nets inside an exclusion zone for non-UK fishing boats. We arrested it and took it in to Dover. A couple of days later, it was released because of 'political sensitivity'. The French trawler then sued the UK government for loss of time at sea. Soft politicians; what chance do we have?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 122.

    Bad move. At the current rate, any time in the next 20 years the jet stream will switch off for reasons related to ice melt, but also the condition of the sea, and after that happens, the whole of Northern Europe will freeze over.


    And that won't do our economy much good.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 121.

    41. List of priorities:

    An alternative view: The usual sacred cows, followed by our future.

    Is the future of our health in fact better served by hi-tech medicine or caring for the world in which we live?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 120.

    There's an old Cree Indian saying that's fitting here.

    Only after the last fish is caught, the last deer killed and the last tree felled, then & only then man will learn he can't eat money.

    The real poor in this world aren't the ever increasing numbers of humans who's are already at plague proportions, it's the voiceless eco system we all rely on, lose that and we all go with it.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 119.

    "Legalized" immigrants, people on benefits, and overweight slobs can all vote for politicians. So politicians pander to them.

    If the underwater inhabitants (many of whom are more intelligent than the above), could vote, more funds would be made available. And quickly.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 118.

    Isn't it curious how the government can't find enough money to tackle a massive environmental problem on its doorstep, yet can lavish billions of taxpayers' money on foreign aid, and immigrants and asylum-seekers who enter our shores with no means of financial support whatever. Future generations will look upon policies such as this as the worst possible kind of short-termist, blinkered thinking.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 117.

    The problem with this whole exercise is that the scientific assessments should have been made before the designations not the other way round. No peer reviewed evidence has been produced to show that MPA's will protect the Marine Environment. If we used the same principles that are being applied to the sea on land we would be banning arable farming as it is so environmentally damaging.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 116.

    Doesn't seem to have spread to MPs expenses or George's Trust Fund.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 115.

    The ocean suffers because it is 'out of sight, out if mind'. However, it has been used a a dumping ground for many year, is about to be exploited and needs protection urgently before we have another rainforest on our hands.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 114.

    Why aren't the bbc reporting on the protests that have happened today? Huh?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 113.

    @105.Conner De Public
    "This topic is over Nine hours old and only 105 posts"

    That's probably because everyones's gone off for the Easter weekend to try and find some warm weather somewhere !

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 112.

    To people saying that other issues are more important.They won't be more important when we don't have a planet to live on anymore.We mess with the balance of nature at out peril.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 111.

    And yet there is no shortage of cash when it comes to tory pet projects like HS2 or wasting hundreds of millions on the west coast mainline or the odd billion bombing Libya. Funny that.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 110.

    Best way to help ANY wildlife, regardless of habitat, is surely to leave them alone.

    For that matter, same is probably true for the human population. Remind me; what exactly do we need the government for?!!

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 109.

    Something fishy going on with this government... I'm an avid diver & have never seen sea life concerned about cash!

 

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