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Chances of recovery for marine life in English seas boosted by creation of new Marine Conservation Zones

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UK’s leading marine charity says announcement is an encouraging step towards network of protection

The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) says yesterday’s announcement by Defra that it’s designating a further 23 Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) in English seas is a really positive step in achieving a genuine network of marine protection around the country’s coast.

Among the newly created MCZs are Cromer Shoal Chalk Beds – the longest chalk reef known in Europe; Farnes East – one of the deepest patches of the North Sea, reaching to between 30-100 metres in depth; Greater Haig Fras – the only substantial area of rocky reef in the Celtic Sea and Mounts Bay covering St Michael’s Mount and the Marazion area – home to important species such as seagrass, stalked jellyfish and crayfish.

The new sites bring the total number of MCZs in English sites to 50.

Although it’s still some way off the original number proposed by the Government’s scientific advisors, sea users and conservation groups five years ago, MCS says it’s pleased that the Government appears to be sticking to its commitment to develop a full network of sites, in addition to these 50, with a third and final consultation and designation process due during 2017/18.

Melissa Moore, MCS Head of Policy, says the creation of these latest MCZs marks a step forward in stemming an alarming decline in England’s rich marine biodiversity: “Stunning habitats such as the chalk reefs near Cromer and deep water rocks at Farnes East will now be better protected for future generations as will iconic species such as the ocean quahog, pink sea fan and European eel.”

MCS says designation of sites is just the first step. It’s vital that they are well managed and damaging activities are prevented.

“We’re recommending that the final tranche in 2017 includes South Celtic Deep – a site that supports short-beaked common dolphin – Norris to Ryde, which is rich in seagrass meadows, Mud Hole off the north west coast – 35 metres deep and home to rare sea pens – and Compass Rose off the Yorkshire coast, which is an important spawning and nursery ground for herring and lemon sole. Once the full network is finally designated in 2018, we look forward to English seas beginning to recover from decades of damage,” says Melissa Moore.

Case study: Cromer Shoals MCZ – Norfolk – designated January 2015

This beautiful seascape is thought to be Europe’s longest chalk reef – stretching 20 miles/30 km – but it’s one of England’s least well known. Its highlights are dramatic features sculpted during the ice age; walls and plateaus over 2m high. Animal filled niches, tunnels and ledges and verdant seaweed flourish in the shallow inshore waters. Chalk features are soft encrusted, colonized and burrowed by hundreds of species including Norfolk’s signature crabs and lobsters.
Chalk is relatively soft and can therefore be damaged. MCZ status will ensure that damaging activities won’t happen at this site, but will allow low impact activities to continue.

The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) is the UK charity dedicated to protecting the UK’s seas, shores and wildlife. MCS campaigns for clean seas and beaches, sustainable fisheries, and protection of marine life. Through education, community involvement and collaboration, MCS raises awareness of the many threats that face the UK’s seas and promotes individual, industry and government action to protect the marine environment. MCS provides information and guidance on many aspects of marine conservation and produces the annual Good Beach Guide, the Good Fish Guide and Fishonline on sustainable seafood, as well as involving thousands of volunteers in projects and surveys such as MCS Beachwatch.

For more information visit www.mcsuk.org.

Marine Life & Conservation

Dive Guides invited to apply for the Green Fins Dive Guide Scholarship

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Reef-World’s campaign is helping dive guides in need receive Green Fins environmental certification

The Reef-World Foundation – international coordinator of the UN Environment Programme’s Green Fins initiative – is calling for dive guides to submit their application for the Green Fins Dive Guide Scholarship.

As a result of the Scholarship campaign, dive guides working around the world – including Brazil, the Philippines, Egypt, Colombia, South Africa, Indonesia and Turkey – have received their certificate proving their status as a Green Fins certified dive guide. Yet, thanks to funding from Reef-World’s partner Paralenz, 149 more scuba diving guides will be able to receive their Green Fins Dive Guide e-Course environmental certification.

Dive guides who meet the criteria (outlined below) can apply for the scholarship at any time through the Green Fins website. To be eligible for the scholarship, guides must:

  • have completed and passed all modules of the Green Fins Dive Guide e-Course
  • be able to demonstrate they or their employer are not financially able to purchase the certificate
  • be a national of a country which receives official development assistance from the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The Scholarship was created in response to feedback from dive guides who had passed the Green Fins Dive Guide e-Course and were keen to download and display their personalised electronic certificate but were not financially able to cover the associated cost (£19 / $25 USD). The personalised electronic certificate can be displayed to entice eco-minded guests by informing them the guide has received this vital environmental certification and is aware of how to reduce the negative environmental impacts associated with diving.

Diving related damage to sensitive marine ecosystems, including coral reefs, is becoming an increasingly significant issue. This damage makes them less likely to survive other local and wider stressors, such as overfishing or run-off from land containing pollutants and plastic debris as well as the effects of climate change, such as rising sea temperatures. The Green Fins Dive Guide e-Course, created with the support of Professional SCUBA Schools International (PSS) and running on their innovative EVO e-learning platform, teaches dive professionals how to prevent diving-related damage to coral reefs by following the highest environmental standards and better managing their guests to prevent damage to the reef.

Sam Craven, Programmes Manager at The Reef-World Foundation, said: “We’re proud to be offering dive guides around the world the opportunity to become Green Fins certified; no matter their background. Both the e-Course and the Scholarship have been a great success so far and we’re delighted to see so many dive professionals demonstrating their commitment to sustainable tourism by taking the course. We urge dive guides who haven’t yet taken the course to consider taking this step and welcome Scholarship applications from anyone who meets the criteria. Together, we can protect coral reefs through sustainable diving and we’d love as many dive guides as possible to join us.”


Dive guides who want to be considered for scholarship can visit www.greenfins.net/green-fins-dive-guide-scholarship-applications to apply.

To donate to the Green Fins Dive Guide Scholarship Fund, please visit www.greenfins.net/appeal/sponsor-a-dive-guide.

Supporters who are interested in helping additional dive guides receive their certifications can also donate to Sponsor a Dive Guide.

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Marine Life & Conservation

Go Fish Free this February

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There are no longer plenty more fish in the sea! Fish Free February challenges you to help protect our oceans by removing seafood from your diet for 28 days and helping to raise awareness of the issues caused by intensive fishing practices.

Our oceans are in a state of global crisis, brought about by ocean warming, acidification, pollution, and habitat destruction. However, the biggest immediate threat to ocean life is from fisheries. Each year an estimated 1-2.7 trillion fish are caught for human consumption, though this figure does not include illegal fisheries, discarded fish, fish caught to be used as bait, or fish killed by not caught, so the real number is far higher. It is no wonder then, that today nearly 90% of the world’s marine stocks are fully exploited, overexploited or depleted. If we do not act fast, overfishing and damaging fishing practices will soon destroy the ocean ecosystems which produce 80% of the oxygen in our atmosphere and provide three billion people with their primary source of protein.

Fish Free February, a UK-registered charity, is challenging people around the world to take action for marine life in a simple but effective way. Take the Fish Free February Pledge and drop seafood from your diet for one month, or beyond. Fish Free February wants to get people talking about the wide range of issues associated with industrial fishing practices and putting the well-being of our oceans at the forefront of dietary decision-making. A third of all wild-caught fish are used to create feed for livestock, so Fish Free February urges us to opt for plant-based dishes as a sustainable alternative to seafood, sharing our best fish-free recipes on social media with #FishFreeFebruary and nominating our friends to do the same.

“Not all fishing practices are bad” explains Simon Hilbourne, founder of Fish Free February. “Well-managed, small-scale fisheries that use selective fishing gears can be sustainable. However, most of the seafood in our diet comes from industrial fisheries which often prioritise profit over the well-being of our planet, resulting in multiple environmental challenges. In some cases, the fishing industry has even been linked to serious human rights issues such as forced labour and human trafficking! Fish Free February hopes to shed more light on fishing practices, create wider discussion around these issues, and offer solutions to benefit people, wildlife, and the natural environment.”

To learn more about these issues and to take the Fish Free February pledge visit www.fishfreefebruary.com

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