You’ve got to feel some sympathy for those volunteers who put goodness knows how many hours of their lives into the four regional Marine Conservation Zone projects over the course of the last three years.
Millions of pounds were spent on these projects to ensure that all ‘stakeholders’ were involved in drawing up the 127 recommended Marine Conservation Zones. Three years of work (for which most representatives went largely unthanked by those they were there to represent) and the sort of negotiations even the UN Security Council would balk at have largely been swept aside as Defra have decided to only consider 31 of the original 127 sites in the public consultation on designation of MCZs in England.; four in the North West, fifteen in the South West, nine in the South East and wait for it; only three in the North East.
The reason? A lack of evidence to support the other 96 – some of which could be designated in future tranches if and when more evidence is produced. What’s more, none of the ‘reference areas’ have been put forward (where all activities including angling would have been banned) with a recommendation that the approach to ‘realising the benefits’ of these highly protected areas should be reviewed.
The problem from the Angling Trust’s perspective is that the possible management measures of the recommended sites still aren’t known. How are we supposed to respond to a consultation when the impact on our members is still yet to be determined? We’ve encouraged all our members and our member clubs to respond to the consultation by the deadline on March 31st. This will involve wading through thousands of pages of documents and hours of work for those dedicated enough to appreciate that it is worth the time and effort to make their views known. In the mean time the Angling Trust has a list of more overarching points that we will be making in our response to the consultation. These include:
1. Disappointment that only 31 of the 127 recommended sites have been proposed for the first tranche.
2. Concerns about displacement of commercial fishing effort
3. Concerns regarding the lack of interim protection for remaining sites that might be reconsidered for protecting in future tranches.
4. Concerns about the socio-economic impact on coastal communities of any restrictive measures on recreational angling activity.
5. Highlighting that the value of recreational sea angling (RSA)has only been included for a handful of the proposed sites, despite there being substantial RSA activity in most of the proposed inshore sites. This short-coming needs to be corrected (especially as RSA forms the large percentage of total cost where it has been included).
6. The decision not to include management measures in the current consultation makes it very difficult for respondents to know what the outcome of designation of the 31 recommended sites will be on recreational sea angling.
7. A re-emphasis of our long-standing position that there is no need for restriction of RSA activities in the proposed sites.
For full details of the consultation and to submit your own response to the proposals click HERE