Wales takes the plunge into protecting seas

Today (Friday 12 December) the Welsh Government designated its first Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ).  This announcement means that the seas around Skomer Island off the coast of Pembrokeshire will become Wales’ first MCZ.
 
The Wildlife Trusts welcome the designation of Wales’ first MCZ as an important step forward in striving for an ecologically coherent network of protected areas around UK shores. People in England will have a chance to have their say about potential MCZs in English waters in the New Year.
 
Dolphin by Milly Metcalfe

Dolphin breaching by Milly Metcalfe

Joan Edwards, Head of Living Seas at The Wildlife Trusts explains: “Creating a network of Marine Conservation Zones is critical to restoring beautiful, vital habitats such as chalk reefs, sponge meadows, kelp forests and eelgrass beds and the myriad species that depend on them. In England there are 27 MCZs but these sites alone are not enough to create the full network of protected areas that our seas really need to recover from past damage and declines. We urge the government to stay on course for designation of a full network by 2016.”

 
Scott Fryer, Marine Campaign and Advocacy Officer at Wildlife Trusts Wales, said:  “This is a positive step taken by the government to recognise the importance of the seas around Skomer Island and the waters surrounding it.”
 
Dr Lizzie Wilberforce, Conservation Manager at the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales, said: “The Wildlife Trust has managed Skomer Island as a nature reserve for over fifty years, and we have been fortunate to benefit from the protection afforded to the marine environment around us. The island’s breeding seabirds are of international importance, and seabirds are a great indicator of the health of our seas.”
 
Marine Conservation Zones are designated under the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 and enable the protection of species and habitats in the seas around the UK. Skomer, which was previously a Marine Nature Reserve designated in 1990, is being updated to a MCZ under the Marine Act. The change to the classification of Marine Conservation Zone will mean that the important marine species of Skomer continue to be safeguarded – seals and pink sea fans are just two of very many species that will be better protected now.
 
Jewel anemones by Sally Sharrock

Jewel anemones by Sally Sharrock

The protection in place does not change; this move is purely to update the designation. But it shows how important this area is to Wales’ marine life. Also making this designation will not affect activities that take place around Skomer such as tourism and research, all of which play their part in supporting the conservation of the area’s wildlife, either directly or financially.”

 
Dr Wilberforce said:
 
“We have always worked closely with Natural Resources Wales whose staff responsible for the MNR, and we look forward to continuing to do so under the area’s new status as an MCZ. The wonderful diversity and intimately entwined ecology of the species occurring under the sea and on the island will continue to thrive as long as we continue to invest in this incredibly important and beautiful area.”