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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Lundy becomes England’s first Marine Conservation Zone

Lundy Island, one of England’s most spectacular marine habitats, has today (12/01/2010) become England’s first Marine Conservation Zone.

While the creation of the marine conservation zone (MCZ) around the island under the Marine Act is effectively just a name change for the site, which has been a marine nature reserve for more than 20 years, it is hoped it will become a blueprint to the way the seas around the UK are protected from exploitation.

Over the next two years, plans for a network of protected zones will be drawn up around English, Welsh and Northern Irish waters.

Its new status establishes it as the first example of the new approach to marine protection being taken under the Marine and Coastal Access Act, which will contribute towards the creation of the network of "ecologically coherent and well-managed marine protected areas" by 2012, said the Government's conservation agency Natural England.

Chief Executive Dr Helen Phillips, Natural England’s Chief Executive, said: “As England’s first Marine Conservation Zone, Lundy represents the first step in delivering the marine protection ambitions of the Marine and Coastal Access Act, and it is fitting that an area of such obvious environmental importance is being designated in this way.”

The seas around Lundy, off the coast of Devon, are home to an impressive range of wildlife, such as grey seals, red band fish, crawfish and at least eight species of coral, which include pink sea fans, red sea fingers and sunset cup corals). Lundy is also the only place in the UK where five cup corals exist together.

Natural England video

Its importance was recognised by its designation as a Marine Nature Reserve in 1986 and it was also designated as a Special Area of Conservation in 2000 in recognition of the significance of its special habitats, which include reefs, sea caves and sandbanks.

Natural England said the new Lundy Marine Conservation Zone will cover the same area as the former Marine Nature Reserve. The existing management of the island’s waters, including the No Take Zone, will remain in place unchanged.

Helen Phillips added: “Lundy is a showcase of what a well protected marine environment can become. Today’s designation ushers in a new era of marine protection and it is important that the momentum to develop more Marine Conservation Zones is now sustained.”

Huw Irranca-Davies, Minister for the Marine Environment, said: "We can't always see what is happening to the wildlife and habitats under our seas, but they need just the same protection as those on land and this world-first in legislation will provide that."

Lundy’s designation accompanies a much wider project to identify and designate new MCZs elsewhere. The MCZ Project is inviting people who use and value the sea to recommend the locations of future MCZs.

There are currently four independent, stakeholder-led MCZ Projects – Balanced Seas (south-east), Finding Sanctuary (south-west), Irish Sea Conservation Zones (Irish Sea) and Net Gain (North Sea).

The Marine Conservation Society is also running a campaign on the issue.

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