Environment secretary, Michael Gove, has unveiled the creation of 41 new Marine Conservation Zones, expanding England’s protected Blue Belt.
The new protections will safeguard 12,000 square km of marine habitat from Cornwall to Northumberland. Along with 50 zones designated in 2013 and 2016, the new protections will take the total to 355 of different types, spanning 220,000 square km.
Gove (pictured) said each designation followed extensive consultation and was based on scientific evidence provided by marine experts from Natural England and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, as well as socio-economic information provided by stakeholders and Defra economists.
Regulators, such as the Marine Management Organisation and local Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities, will be responsible for ensuring the Marine Conservation Zones are managed to protect their species and habitats, working with local fishing communities and other organisations.
Tony Juniper, Chair of Natural England, said the creation of the new protections was “a major step forward” adding: “There is still much to be done, including putting in place more of the good practices that we know are needed to secure the long-term health of our seas and their wildlife.”
The UK government has called for 30% of the world’s ocean to be protected by 2030. It will publish an international strategy later this year setting out “further action to conserve and sustainably use the ocean.”