Scilly Amongst First Marine Conservation Zones To Be Approved

matt lethbridge sea fisheries vessel 2The government has announced that the waters around Scilly will be amongst the first Marine Conservation Zones in the country.

It’s the culmination of years of work by the local Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority, working with fishermen and conservationists.

There was disappointment in 2011, when the government delayed announcing which areas would get the new status, because they needed more scientific evidence.

At the time, IFCA officer Steve Watt said Scilly was one of the first areas to complete the survey work and was “ready to go.’”

Much of that work was undertaken by Tim Allsop from the Wildlife Trust.

Tim says many people wonder why our waters need another layer of protection. The islands are already a European Marine Site, giving us special conservation status.

But he says the MCZs are very different. They’ve been built “from the ground up” by local people, rather than being foisted on us from above.

And the zones will be managed locally too.

The 11 areas (purple) included in Scilly's Marine Conservation Zone.

The 11 areas (purple) included in Scilly’s Marine Conservation Zone.

The 11 sites that make up the MCZ are located to the south and east of St Mary’s and St Agnes, and around St Martin’s.

There are also areas near the Seven Stones, Bishop Rock and Gilstone.

Tim says there won’t be big changes or lots of new regulations put in place.

He says it’s more about ‘future proofing’ and ensuring things stay the way they are at the moment.

For example, they’re looking at a ban on commercial kelp cutting and having a closed winter period for fishermen.

Tim says that won’t make a big difference at the moment, because not many fishermen operate over winter, but with modern gear, it could be a possibility in the coming years.

Unlike other areas, Scilly isn’t planning ‘no take zones’ where fishing will be stopped.

And he says Scilly is way ahead of the other 26 MCZs announced yesterday because we already have a management plan in place.

IFCA Officer Doug Holt said it’s taken a long time for this first stage to be announced and has not come without hurdles over the last few years.

He said it’s “a good step in the right direction” for Scilly’s fisheries and shows how the islands’ IFCA can work together with the commercial fishing community.