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Marine Consevation Zones

Biodiversity SW Coastal and Marine Group
MCZ Task Group - background

The Legal Context

The Marine and Coastal Access Act includes measures giving the Secretary of State (SoS) powers to designate Marine Conservation Zones, a new type of marine protected area (MPA). It also places a duty on the SoS to designate a network of MPAs for the:

'... conservation and improvement of the marine environment ...'

Government has made it clear in various commentaries on the Act, which have equal legal status, that they see the ecological coherence of the network as being paramount, and that the science will be the primary consideration in the MCZ selection process.

This network will be made up of existing MPAs - SAC, SPA and SSSI - together with the new MCZs. In English waters the MCZ component of the network will be identified by four regional stakeholder MCZ projects (see fig 1), including Finding Sanctuary in the SW. NE and JNCC will take the outputs from the projects and hand them to the SoS, together with a commentary on how well they meet ecological criteria, by October 2011.

Finding Sanctuary

Finding Sanctuary is the project that has been tasked with proposing the MCZ elements of the MPA network in the SW. The final recommendations on the location of the MCZs, and the conservation objectives of each, will be made by a regional stakeholder panel, the project Steering Group. Local comment and input will come from Local MCZ Groups largely organised on county lines (see Figure 2 for details of decision-making groups).

The decision-making process is supported by the Finding Sanctuary Project team; a wide range of data, in the form of the Regional Profile; decision support software, Marxann; and national guidance on the ecological criteria that the MPA network as a whole needs to meet.

The Steering Group (SG) is made up a full range of relevant stakeholders, each representing a wider constituency and bringing a specific range of skills, knowledge and experience to the project. The conservation members on the Finding Sanctuary SG are:

  • Paul St. Pierre (RSPB) - conservation NGO
  • Richard White (WCL/WTs) - conservation NGO
  • Roger Covey (NE) - statutory conservation (inshore)
  • Beth Stoker (JNCC) - statutory conservation (offshore)

The MCZ Task Group

The Biodiversity SW Coastal and Marine Group is proposing to establish an MCZ task group, to run from now until the completion of the MCZ project. The aims of this group are to:

  • Ensure that the MCZ network maximises delivery against BAP targets;
  • Provide comment on the different iterations of proposed MCZ networks;
  • Ensure that the MCZ planning process has access to the best available marine biodiversity data;
  • Act as a communication channel between the SG conservation members and the wider marine conservation sector;
  • Co-ordinate marine conservation input to Local MCZ Groups across the region.

The group will not be generating MCZ proposals, but will aim to build up a picture of important areas for marine biodiversity - linked to the Ecological Network Guidance and based on best available data - that will be used to inform discussions.

It is intended to keep the group small, around 15 members, in order to facilitate decision making. However, group members will be asked to provide connections to the wider marine conservation and biodiversity sector. It is envisaged that the MCZ Task Group will consist of a conservation sector representative from each of the five Local MCZ Groups plus representatives from biodiversity agencies and organisations closely involved in the Finding Sanctuary process.

More detailed - but brief - terms of reference will be discussed and agreed at the first meeting, together with a programme of required activities, linked to the meeting cycles of the different Finding Sanctuary Groups.

This group will be co-chaired by Richard White and Roger Covey, enabling them to provide a direct line of contact between MCZ Task Group and the Finding Sanctuary Steering Group.

English Regional MCZ Projects

Figure 1 - English Regional MCZ Projects

Decision-making groups within Finding Sanctuary

Figure 2 - Decision-making groups within Finding Sanctuary

Download Biodiversity SW Coastal and Marine Group MCZ Task Group - background (PDF)