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England’s first Marine Conservation Zone announced

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

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.

Dr Helen Phillips, Natural England’s Chief Executive, welcomed the announcement: “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 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. 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. See underwater footage of Lundy's marine wildlife.

The new Lundy Marine Conservation Zone will cover the same area as the former Marine Nature Reserve (and is being created by the automatic legal transition from MNR to MCZ). A timetable for developing conservation objectives, and for carrying out public consultation on them, is currently under consideration by the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). The existing management of the island’s waters, including the No Take Zone, will remain in place unchanged.

Helen Phillips concluded: “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.”

MCZ next steps

Lundy’s designation accompanies a much wider project to identify and designate new MCZs elsewhere. Through an ambitious, nationwide initiative, the MCZ Project is inviting people who use and value the sea to recommend the locations of future MCZs. No other country in the world has attempted to engage so many people in developing plans for marine protection on such a large scale before.

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). Each regional project has a stakeholder group made up of representatives of sea users and interest groups, which will submit its recommendations for MCZs to Natural England and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) by June 2011. On receipt of these recommendations and any further advice provided by Natural England and JNCC, DEFRA will draft designation orders, and carry out a formal public consultation in early 2012. The aim is for DEFRA to complete the MCZ designations by December 2012.

Notes to Editors:

For more information, requests for interviews, photos and DVD footage of Lundy, please contact:
Michelle Hawkins, Press Officer, 0300 060 1109 / or
Press Office on 0845 603 9953, / out of hours 07970 098005.

1. Marine Nature Reserves (MNRs)
The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 allowed for the designation of Marine Nature Reserves (MNRs). Two MNRs have been designated, one at Lundy (England) and one at Skomer (Wales) plus Strangford Lough (Northern Ireland) under separate legislation. Lundy MNR was designated by Order under the Wildlife and Countryside Act on 20 November 1986 (Annex 1). It is the only designated MNR in England.

2. Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009
Schedule 12 of the Marine and Coastal Access Act converts any MNRs into MCZs, which means that Lundy will automatically become England’s first MCZ on 12 January 2010. All other MCZs will be identified through stakeholder-led projects (see Note 6).

3. Levels of protection
The new Lundy MCZ will cover the same areas as the former Marine Nature Reserve and will benefit from the same protection. The waters around the island are currently protected through byelaws made by the Nature Conservancy Council (a forerunner to Natural England) in 1986, and more recently the Devon Sea Fisheries Committee. These bye-laws will remain in force (although the Fisheries byelaws are being re-made in order to remove out-of-date references to the Marine Nature Reserve).

4. No Take Zone
In 2003, parts of the waters off Lundy were established as the UK’s first statutory No Take Zone (NTZ) under a DFSC byelaw. The aim was to ensure that at least some part of the Lundy MNR was protected from all forms of fishing. Some future MCZs may require No Take Zones, but this is unlikely to be the majority.

5. Natural England’s involvement with Lundy
Natural England takes an active role in managing Lundy. It chairs the Lundy Management Forum and has an officer who represents Natural England on the Advisory Group. Natural England financially supports the employment of a MNR Warden and Assistant Warden who are hosted and line-managed by the Island Manager on behalf of the Lundy Company. The Wardens are responsible for managing the MNR, some aspects of monitoring, education and raising awareness of the MNR management, including the zoning scheme, amongst visitors to Lundy.

6. The Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) Project
The MCZ Project has been established by Defra, Natural England and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) to identify and recommend Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) to Government. The Marine Conservation Zone Project will be delivered through four Regional MCZ Projects covering the south-east (Balanced Seas), south-west (Finding Sanctuary), Irish Sea (Irish Sea Conservation Zone) and North Sea (Net Gain). These four independent Regional MCZ Projects will work with sea users and interest groups to identify MCZs and provide recommendations for MCZs within their regions to Government.

MCZs are a new national designation as proposed in the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009. MCZs will be designated to protect nationally important and representative habitats and species and, together with the Natura 2000 sites, Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), Ramsar sites and new national MPAs in Scotland and Northern Ireland will create the UK MPA network.

Natural England is the statutory nature conservation adviser for Government for England (including territorial waters from 0 to 12 nautical miles) and is committed to delivering an ecologically coherent and representative network of MPAs. It will commit time from its own specialist staff and research products to support The MCZ Project as well as providing funding.

The Joint Nature Conservation Committee is the statutory adviser to Government on UK and international nature conservation, on behalf of the Council for Nature Conservation and the Countryside, the Countryside Council for Wales, Natural England and Scottish Natural Heritage. Its work contributes to maintaining and enriching biological diversity, conserving geological features and sustaining natural systems. JNCC is also the statutory conservation adviser to Government for UK offshore waters (i.e. beyond 12 nautical miles).

7. The four Regional Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) Projects

a) Balanced Seas: south-east Regional MCZ Project
Sally Moore, Communications Coordinator
Balanced Seas, Durrell Institute for Conservation and Ecology (DICE), Room Marlowe 65A Marlowe Building, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7NR
Tel: 01227 827 839

b) Finding Sanctuary: south-west Regional MCZ Project
Joana Smith, Communications Coordinator
Finding Sanctuary, Darts Farm, Topsham, Exeter, EX3 OQH
Tel: 01392 878 328 / 07968 434 109

c) Irish Sea Conservation Zones: Irish Sea Regional MCZ Project

Matthew Sutcliffe, Communications Coordinator
Irish Sea Conservation Zones, c/o Envirolink Northwest, Spencer House, 91 Dewhurst Road, Birchwood, Warrington, WA3 7PG
Tel: 01925 813 200

d) Net Gain: North Sea Regional MCZ Project
Dani Sewell, PR and Communications Manager
Net Gain, The Deep Business Centre, Hull, HU1 4BG
Tel: 01482 216 222

8. The MCZ Project planning timetable
In England, four Regional MCZ Projects have been asked to submit their recommendations to Natural England and JNCC by June 2011.

Providing these recommendations meet the scientific guidelines set, they will be submitted unchanged to Ministers. In the event that they do not meet the guidelines, Natural England and JNCC will also provide their advice to Ministers.

Recommendations, along with Natural England’s and JNCC’s advice, will then be submitted to Ministers, at which point the statutory stage of the designation process will commence.

On receiving recommended network options, Ministers will consider how well they meet, and are consistent with, the relevant statutory considerations, national policy objectives, the advice of the independent Science Advisory Panel, the conservation agencies, and the UK’s international commitments.

Although not bound by the recommendations of the regional projects, Ministers will attach considerable weight to them, especially where recommendations are supported by stakeholders.

Where the recommendations from the Regional MCZ Projects are accepted, Ministers will draft designation orders, and carry out formal public consultation in accordance with section 119 of the Act.

Formal public consultation is expected to take place in early 2012. Ministers will consider objections and representations received before deciding whether to make a designation order.

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