Better protected seas promised in UK Marine Bill

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New marine nature reserves around Britain’s coast are among radical plans published by Environment Secretary Hilary Benn. A new network of marine conservation zones, for species and habitats of national importance, will be put in place by 2012 under new powers contained in the government’s draft Marine Bill.  The new marine conservation zones will have clear conservation objectives, to protect habitats and species of national importance, ensuring that some types of fishing, dredging or other forms of development do not damage them.

Measures to give people the freedom to walk round the English coast for the first time are also included.

The draft Bill also includes new systems for managing and protecting our coastal and marine waters through:

  • A new UK-wide marine planning system, which will enable us to set a clear direction for how we are going to manage our seas and make the best use of marine resources.
  • Simpler licensing of marine developments (e.g. offshore wind farms)
  • Improved management of marine and inland fisheries

A new Marine Management Organisation, a centre of marine excellence, will be created to regulate development and activity at sea and enforce environmental protection laws.  

Migratory and freshwater fisheries will benefit from modernised and more flexible powers.  These will give the Environment Agency the tools to better manage fisheries for the benefit of anglers and commercial fishers.

Hilary Benn said:

“Our seas are already showing the effects of climate change and with increasing use of the sea by many competing interests we must make sure that the marine environment can cope with changing conditions. We have a duty to look after our seas for future generations.

'Our proposals will raise protection and management of our seas to a new level, halting the decline in biodiversity to create clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse oceans and seas.

'For the first time in our history all of us will be able to walk the length of the coast and get close to the sea right around England.”

Jonathan Shaw, Marine and Fisheries Minister, added :

'The draft Marine Bill is a major step forward in marine protection and planning. It will benefit all who make a living from the sea by helping to get the most we can from it in a sustainable way while protecting precious resources.”

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