Marine Protected Areas Revisited: Tenth Report of Session 2016–17
The 2015 Conservative Party Manifesto committed to “complete the network of [Marine Conservation Zones] MCZs”. Yet only 50 MCZs have been designated so far—well short of the 127 sites originally recommended by the regional projects in 2011. To fulfill this commitment, the third tranche of MCZs must be considerably larger and more ambitious than the previous two. The delay is unacceptable and we call on the Government to put in place this final piece of the MPA jigsaw as soon as possible.
Without effective management, surveillance and monitoring our MPAs are just lines on a map. Once a site is designated then its status as a MPA should be made the primary consideration for management and decision-making. The Government must act to protect MPAs properly by implementing a robust and well-coordinated management strategy. The Government should also consider investing in aerial and seaborne drones. We are shocked and disappointed by the Government’s decision to exclude reference areas from the third tranche of MCZs. Without reference areas the Government will be unable to properly assess how well the MPA network is performing.
The level of ambition shown by the FCO in designating MPAs in the UK Overseas Territories (UKOTs) has vastly exceeded ambitions in domestic waters - due in part to the very different circumstances. British seabirds off the Chagos Islands are better protected than they would be flying off Cornwall. However, many of the management problems experienced in domestic waters have been replicated in the UKOTs. The Government must now take action to ensure these sites are effectively resourced and managed.
The Government’s communications strategy in both the UK and the UKOTs is still ineffective and unsatisfactory, this is despite our predecessor Committee raising this as a concern in 2014. The lack of progress on this issue is self-defeating, as poor communication continues to make the process of designation and enforcement unnecessarily contentious.