Disappointment At Marine Conservation Zone Delay

The head of our islands’ Inshore Fisheries Committee has expressed disappointment that the Government is delaying its decision on the designation of Marine Conservation Zones until at least 2013.

Defra has announced that it needs more time to gather scientific evidence in support of the 127 conservation areas which have been submitted, 11 of which are off the Isles of Scilly.

Selection of the zones, which will have special protection under the new rules, was expected to take place in summer next year.

IFCA head, Steve Watt, says he’s disappointed in the delay, especially after all the hard work that’s been done on the islands to gather the necessary information.

Steve said that the Isles of Scilly were one of the first areas to complete their survey work almost two years ago, in large part due to the work of Tim Allsop at the Wildlife Trust

He says our islands are “miles ahead of the game”, a situation that has been recognised in the report from the regional group overseeing the work.

He added that there isn’t any more evidence that can be collected for the proposals in Scilly and we’re effectively just having to wait for a decision.

Steve Watt, Scilly's Maritime Officer

Steve thinks the Environment Minister, Richard Benyon, may have come under pressure from the fishing lobby although he adds in Scilly, the designated areas are not used for fishing anyway, so will have no effect on the local industry.

Joanna Glyde from Defra admitted that some projects already had good scientific evidence but could not explain why these can’t be reviewed separately in advance of those requiring further work, although she suggested these could be amongst the first to be designated in 2013.

She denied any influence of the fishing industry on the delay, saying it was purely on scientific grounds and that the Government could not move forward without having all the evidence in place, which they would expect to have next summer.

Sangeeta McNair from Natural England, a partner in the identification of the MCZ’s in the southwest, says she has been overwhelmed by the uptake and enthusiasm for the project in the Isles of Scilly and can understand the disappointment at the delay.

But she says “everyone should remain positive and a 6 month delay in the process is not so bad in the grand scheme of things.”