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Dorset Wildlife Trust's plea to protect seabed
AN ENVIRONMENTAL message from Dorset is being sent to the heart of government today as ministers are told why the coast needs special protection.
The Petition Fish campaign was launched by wildlife trusts to raise public support for protected areas at sea, the government’s proposed Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs). The cover aimed to prevent trawling and dredging destroying the ocean floor.
The 250,000-strong petition, which includes 9,000 ‘signed scales’ from Dorset as well as many online signatures from local residents, will be presented to Natural Environment Minister Richard Benyon today at a Parliamentary reception at the House of Commons.
Representatives from wildlife trusts including Dorset will tell the minister the country has an ‘unprecedented opportunity’ to protect the marine environment using MCZs.
The government was advised to introduce more than 120 of these zones, including eight in Dorset, but this was scaled back to 31, of which three are local.
The 31 sites are now being consulted on and wildlife trusts are using the opportunity to urge the government to act and protect them all.
The three local sites are Chesil & Stennis Ledges, home to rare pink seafans and native oysters, South Dorset, an area of mixed seabed habitats lying in deeper water, and Poole Rocks in Poole Bay.
Dorset Wildlife Trust (DWT) was particularly disappointed that Studland Bay was not included, given the overwhelming evidence and ecological value of the site.
DWT marine conservation officer Emma Rance said: “We are concerned over the government’s preference to designate ‘up to’ 31 sites.
“This implies that the actual number designated may be even lower.
“We urge the public to show their support by responding to the government’s consultation.
“We need to ensure that the remaining sites are not forgotten.”
Dorset Wildlife Trust is calling for:
The government to designate all 31 of the proposed MCZs in 2013 and enforce appropriate management in these sites as soon as possible. This amount is a step forward, but nowhere near enough for an ecological coherent network.
The government to set a clear timetable for the rest of the network to be designated.
The sites identified by Natural England as being most under threat to be designated urgently.
The evidence that the government spent £5m collecting last year (which has not yet been used) to be taken into account immediately, along with that collected by stakeholders in 2012.
Proper protection of sites as soon as they are designated – including banning bottom-trawling and dredging in these areas.
To respond to the petition visit wildlifetrusts.org