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Marine Life & Conservation

Marine Management Organisation launches consultation on four of England’s Marine Protected Areas

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The next phase in the Government’s ambitious plans for a ‘Blue Belt’ of marine protected areas around the UK’s seas has begun with the Marine Management Organisation’s (MMO) formal consultation to protect four of England’s 40 offshore Marine Protected Areas.

Now that the UK has left the EU, the UK Government has powers to implement evidenced based marine management that will help ensure our seas are managed sustainably, protecting both the long-term future of the fishing industry and our precious wildlife and habitats.

Marine Protected Areas are designated areas of the ocean which include habitats and species essential for healthy, functioning marine eco-systems. The purpose of a Marine Protected Area is to protect and enhance rare, threatened and important habitats and species from damage caused by activities that take place within it.

The MMO is consulting on byelaws being proposed under new powers introduced under the Fisheries Act, the UK’s first major domestic fisheries legislation in nearly 40 years. These byelaws aim to prohibit fishing activities in Marine Protected Areas where there is evidence that they harm wildlife or damage habitats. The proposed byelaws seek to prohibit the use of bottom towed fishing gear in all four sites and additional restrictions for static gears over sensitive features in two of the sites.

The consultation runs from 1 February 2021 to 28 March 2021 and follows a call for evidence, which closed in December 2020, where the MMO sought additional evidence and views on the draft assessments and management options for the four offshore Marine Protected Areas.

These first four Marine Protected Areas were chosen as a priority to help protect their vibrant and productive undersea environments, and include the Dogger Bank Special Area of Conservation, which has the largest shallow sandbank in British waters and supports commercial fish species such cod and plaice, as well as sand eels that provide an important food source for kittiwakes, puffins and porpoises.

Environment Secretary George Eustice said: Now that we have left the Common Fisheries Policy, we are able to deliver on our commitment to achieve a healthy, thriving and sustainable marine environment. The UK has already established an impressive ‘Blue Belt’ covering 38% of our waters and our Fisheries Act has provided us with additional powers to go further to protect our seas around England. This proposal to introduce byelaws to safeguard four of our precious offshore Marine Protected Areas shows how we are putting these powers into action.

Action is already being taken to tackle unsustainable activities within England’s seas, with management measures introduced in many inshore sites through byelaws introduced by both MMO and the Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities.

Tom McCormack, Chief Executive Officer of MMO, said: This consultation is a big step forward in agreeing measures that will help protect and revive important marine habitats, vital to the unique and vibrant marine life that live within them. 

We are ambitious for England’s seas and want to hear as many views as possible in order to create benefits for people and the economy, while protecting our precious marine environment for future generations.

The MMO is seeking views on proposed byelaws for the following four offshore Marine Protected Areas:

  • Dogger Bank Special Area of Conservation (East of England)
  • Inner Dowsing, Race Bank and North Ridge Special Area of Conservation (The Wash approaches, off the Lincolnshire and North Norfolk coasts)
  • South Dorset Marine Conservation Zone (South West – Dorset)
  • The Canyons Marine Conservation Zone (South West – Offshore)

The MMO will announce its plan for engagement on the management of non-licensable activities, including anchoring for recreational vessels, for the Studland Bay Marine Conservation Zone on the Dorset coast later this month.

Nick and Caroline (Frogfish Photography) are a married couple of conservation driven underwater photo-journalists and authors. Both have honours degrees from Manchester University, in Environmental Biology and Biology respectively, with Nick being a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society, a former high school science teacher with a DipEd in Teaching Studies. Caroline has an MSc in Animal Behaviour specializing in Caribbean Ecology. They are multiple award-winning photographers and along with 4 published books, feature regularly in the diving, wildlife and international press They are the Underwater Photography and Deputy Editors at Scubaverse and Dive Travel Adventures. Winners of the Caribbean Tourism Organization Photo-journalist of the Year for a feature on Shark Diving in The Bahamas, and they have been placed in every year they have entered. Nick and Caroline regularly use their free time to visit schools, both in the UK and on their travels, to discuss the important issues of marine conservation, sharks and plastic pollution. They are ambassadors for Sharks4Kids and founders of SeaStraw. They are Dive Ambassadors for The Islands of The Bahamas and are supported by Mares, Paralenz, Nauticam and Olympus. To find out more visit www.frogfishphotography.com

Marine Life & Conservation

SHARK MONTH ARRIVES AT ROYAL WILLIAM YARD, PLYMOUTH

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A shark has been spotted approaching Royal William Yard in Plymouth, much to the surprise of swimmers, paddleboarders and onlookers.

With its distinctive dorsal fin cutting through the water, the sizeable shark swam along the coastline, before turning to head inland towards Firestone Arch at Royal William Yard. The appearance drew a crowd, who were captivated for more than an hour by the unusual sight – and it was all caught on video.

The shark is one of many expected sightings at Royal William Yard over the coming weeks… because today marks the start of Shark Month!

In reality, the ‘shark’ spotted along the Plymouth shoreline was actually a custom-made model, created by the team at Royal William Yard and sailed underwater by Caroline Robertson‑Brown​​​​ from the Shark Trust, who donned scuba diving gear for the occasion.

The stunt took place to launch Shark Month in style and draw attention to the work of the leading international conservation charity, which is based in Britain’s Ocean City. Spectators were reassured that the water was safe and many entered into the spirit of the performance, swimming or sailing alongside the shark.

Shark Month will take place across Royal William Yard throughout July and will feature an extravaganza of art, entertainment and advocacy for everyone to enjoy. The packed programme of events starts with an art exhibition and ends with a trip on paddleboards with shark experts – with everything from a shark quiz to a Jaws screening in between.

Paul Cox, CEO of the Shark Trust, said: “There are often assumptions and misconceptions when it comes to sharks. This was certainly the case with the shark spotted at Royal William Yard! While the British coastline is home to many species of shark, this was not one of them. However, we’re thrilled it caught people’s attention, because seeing a shark is a special and memorable moment. That is precisely why we want to celebrate these incredible creatures, highlight the need for conservation, and ask for help to safeguard their future.”

For more information about Shark Month at Royal William Yard, visit the Shark Trust Website.


Images and video: Jay Stone

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Marine Life & Conservation

Iceland issue millionaire whale hunter a licence to murder 128 vulnerable fin whales

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whaling petition

Just a few days ago, Iceland issued millionaire whale hunter Kristján Loftsson a licence to murder 128 vulnerable fin whales.

Fin whales are awe-inspiring — capable of communicating through song, feeling love, and experiencing deep emotional suffering. Loftsson often kills them pregnant, and a study found that these majestic giants can take up to 2 hours to die after being harpooned.

We can still stop this cruelty and protect the second largest mammal on earth – not just this season but for good – by helping change the law and making this Iceland’s last licence.

The Icelandic government is under pressure. The key minister admitted she doesn’t agree with whaling but says the law forced her to grant the licence. Brave lawmakers plan to try to repeal that law.

We can help, like we did before: Let’s make this a PR nightmare for the Icelandic government, and build a 2 million-strong call to put whalers like Kristján Loftsson out of business forever. Time is ticking – add your name and share with everyone you know!

Scientists discovered cells in whales’ brains that process complex emotions like romance and grief. These were thought to exist only in humans and great apes, but whales have up to three times more of them than humans!

Loftsson says he might not have enough time this season to organise the slaughter of these gentle giants.  But he’s not likely to stop. A few years ago, shocked visitors saw one of Loftsson’s ships floating in bloody water, hauling a carcass. “Just tell them to look somewhere else. They can just turn around and look the other way,” he said. Let’s show him that we won’t look away until whaling is gone for good.

Whaling season is open, Loftsson has a licence, and at any moment he could decide to go on a killing spree. So we need to move fast to stop the hunt – now and forever! Add your name and share everywhere – when we make it massive, Avaaz will deliver our call directly to the top decision-makers in Reykjavik!

You can sign the petition here.

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