West Cornwall MP Derek Thomas says that a new set of Marine Conservation Zones (MCZ), including areas to the west of Land’s End and south of Scilly as well as one in the Helford estuary, are a “big step forward”.
The 41 new MCZs, announced by Environment Secretary Michael Gove last week, mean that the UK now has 355 Marine Protected Areas of different types, spanning 220,000 square km – nearly twice the size of England.
The latest tranche of MZCs include Cape Bank, west of the Land’s End peninsula, an area of 472 square kms which consists of a rocky reef system, and is home to species such as flatfish, sea bass and sand eels – alongside providing habitat for the spiny lobster.
And south of Scilly, the 132 square km area has a seabed which supports a wide range of animals, both on and in the sediment, such as worms, bivalve molluscs (such as the fan mussel and great scallop), starfish, anemones, sea firs and sea urchins. Fish species such as the sandy dogfish, sole, megrim and three-bearded rockling have also been recorded in the area.
The Helford Estuary MCZ is an area of approximately 6 square km and specifically protects native oysters which are described as ‘ecosystem engineers’, providing both a habitat and a food source for a variety of species, and filtering seawater.
The new zones have been established following an extensive consultation process which resulted in more than 48,000 responses including from local fishermen and marine conservation experts and which, said Mr Gove, provided “overwhelming support” for the proposals.
Mr Thomas commented: “This is another big step forward in terms of extending our blue belt to safeguard precious and diverse sea life for future generations.
“The creation of an MCZ has a double benefit in that it not only offers helps preserve the marine environment, it also provides a major boost for our economy in terms of encouraging environmentally-friendly tourism.
“We know that since the creation of the Manacles MCZ in 2013 and Mounts Bay in 2016, there has been a marked growth in the numbers of divers and wildlife enthusiasts visiting West Cornwall.”