Guest blog by Mike Bailey – The Marine and Coastal Access Act introduces a new national designation for marine protection – Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs). As a conservation-minded sea angler, I think Marine Conservation Zones provide an excellent opportunity to conserve the seas around England but we must ensure they are planned properly and that they don’t unnecessarily restrict us.
Despite being recreational users, MCZs could still affect how we use the sea. For example, sea angling could be prohibited within some areas in order to protect certain habitats and species. Therefore it is important that we know how we can influence these decisions now, before they have been made.
Four projects have been set up around England to work with recreational sea anglers and other sea users to decide where these zones should go and what level of protection they should have. These projects are Finding Sanctuary in the south-west, Balanced Seas in the south-east, Net Gain for the North Sea and Irish Sea Conservation Zones for the Irish Sea. Together they form The Marine Conservation Zone project, which Natural England and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee set up.
Each project brings together sea anglers, divers, commercial fishermen, leisure boaters, conservationists, scientists and many other people who use the sea together on a group to make recommendations. These groups of representatives are responsible for drawing the lines on maps – deciding where MCZs should be placed and what level of protection they should have. The level of protection given to each MCZ will be decided on a case by case basis. The groups will make their recommendations to the government in June 2011 and the final decision lies with Ministers.
I represent recreational sea angling on the Finding Sanctuary project Steering Group and sea anglers are represented on all four regional projects. I want to help Finding Sanctuary to engage with as many sea anglers as possible in the south-west, as I realise how important it is to make sure recreational sea angling interests are taken into account before decisions have been made.
Over the past six months, the four projects have been engaging as many recreational anglers and other sea users as possible across each region. The projects are collecting information about which areas you visit, so that they can create maps of angling activity for each region. This comprehensive mapping exercise will be done for all leisure and commercial sea users. Accurate information about where we visit is essential, as this is the information that I, as a sea angling representative will use to stand up for our interests during the negotiations. In order for the data to be used during the planning, the regional projects need to receive information from sea users by the 31st October. It’s important to point out that this does not involve giving away details of your secret marks- the data can be collected at a coarser level to ensure you can keep your best spots for yourself.
You can get involved by:
- making contact with your regional project
- sharing your information using the online interactive map www.mczmapping.org
- spreading the word to help ensure as many people as possible take advantage of this unique opportunity
Written by: Mike Bailey, Recreational Sea Angling representative – Finding Sanctuary Steering Group