Today is Monday, and since we at Speak Up For Blue believe in starting off the week on a good note, we’re going to share with you some positive news for our oceans. Just last week, the U.K. announced that it will be establishing 23 new marine conservation zones (MCZs) within the Northeast Atlantic. The island nations hopes that by protecting some of its unique coastal and marine habitats, including chalk reef and The Needles, it can preserve the biodiversity observed in these ecosystems.
The designation of 23 new marine conservation zones puts the total at 50 within English seas. About three years ago, the government declared the initial 27 conservation areas within what is being called the “Blue Belt.” The additional 23 nearly doubles the total protected area, and is just one part of a growing trend we’ve seen over the past few months of individual nations protecting significant expanses of ocean habitat.
These designations, however, are not without their skeptics. Dr. Robert Callum, a leading marine biologist across the pond, claims that these MCZs are “paper parks” in that they will not actually protect the marine ecosystems they’re meant to. It is unclear what level of restriction these zones will have, and these restrictions will go a long way towards predicting the success of this initiative. We know that fishing will not be excluded, but it’s unclear whether this means industrial fishing or simply recreational fishing will be allowed in these areas. Additionally, the total number of 50 MCZs is far below the goal of 127 initially proposed in 2013 by the U.K. government.
As I said though, today is Monday and I’m going to try and be optimistic. Sure, 50 is not 127. But 50 is better than 23, and certainly better than 0. Protecting critical marine habitats is going to be an uphill battle, and in these situations a win is a win. Is this the best announcement in the history of announcements? No. Is it the worst news ever? Again, no. Hopefully these 23 additional MCZs will not only protect, to a certain degree, the extremely productive coastal marine habitats surrounding the U.K., they will also inform future policy makers on how best to conserve and manage these vital ecosystems.
Enjoy the Podcast!