The UK’s leading marine conservation charity has welcomed the Environment Secretary’s decision to launch an independent review to consider whether Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) would add further protections to the seas around England and Northern Ireland.
The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) has long called for HPMAs to be designated to offer additional protections for the marine environment.
Dr Peter Richardson, Head of Ocean Recovery for MCS said: “We welcome this announcement from the Secretary of State, and this level of commitment is long overdue. There have been other reviews of the potential for HPMAs so this one must result in action. Highly protected sites are known to be the most effective tool for marine wildlife recovery, and new sites in our waters would provide significant benefits for our threatened marine species and habitats.
In the first instance, we should prioritise implementing large offshore HPMAs in UK’s waters. These would protect critical habitat for commercial fish stocks, and endangered species such as common skate, halibut and angelshark. These sites are used by fewer stakeholder groups than inshore waters, so the benefits vastly outweigh the impacts.
Inshore HPMA sites should be community-led and need extensive discussion with those that use them – for instance Lamlash Bay, on Arran, took 13 years of discussion before it was implemented – and consequently is a highly effective and successful HPMA, with recovering biodiversity and local ownership and support.”
MCS welcomes the opportunity to input to the new review and the appointment of Richard Benyon MP, who has been a champion for marine protection, including HPMAs in our Overseas Territories, for many years.
Last week, Defra announced 41 new Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in English and Northern Irish waters.
Dr Jean-Luc Solandt, Principle Specialist in MPAs at MCS, added: “All existing offshore MPAs should be considered for designation as HPMAs, where all activities like dredging, bottom-towed trawling and marine industry are kept out and species of commercially important fish, and the habitats they depend on, can properly recover and flourish.
Highly Protected Marine Areas are an important element of a protection network as they allow the rewilding of our seabed. HPMAs are good for carbon sequestration through the recovery of shellfish beds and other habitats, helping us mitigate against the threat of climate catastrophe.”
For more information about the Marine Conservation Society visit their website by clicking here.