On 30th January 2015, Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) published a consultation on the second tranche of proposed Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) for the UK; the consultation runs to 24th April and the outcome is expected in December. Twenty-three new Marine Conservation Zones are being promoted in English inshore and offshore waters, including the Solent.
Marine Conservation Zones were introduced by the UK government as the result of the European Union’s Marine Strategy Framework Directive, designed to protect more effectively the marine environment across Europe. The overarching goal of the Directive is to achieve ‘Good Environmental Status’ (GES) by 2020 across Europe’s marine environment. Each Member State is required to develop and implement a marine strategy for their waters in order to protect and conserve the marine environment, prevent its deterioration, and, where practicable, restore marine ecosystems in areas where they have been adversely affected.
The Needles MCZ is the only candidate site on the Isle of Wight coast being proposed for designation in the second tranche of public consultation after stakeholders raised concerns that recreational boating, and local ports and harbours in the Solent would be adversely affected by MCZs at the other sites around the Island, namely Yarmouth to Cowes, Norris to Ryde, and Bembridge.
Of particular interest to Cowes Harbour Commission is the Yarmouth to Cowes candidate Marine Conservation Zones, an inshore site measuring 17 km². This site runs along the Island’s northwest coast, from Sconce Point on the west of Yarmouth to the West Cowes headlands and includes Newtown Harbour and the important Salt Mead anchorage in Thorness Bay.
The Yarmouth to Cowes MCZ was dropped from the second tranche as the creation of an MCZ site in this area would have had potential adverse impacts on several sectors with the greatest costs to recreational boating, ports, harbours, and shipping. For example, this site includes the Salt Mead commercial anchorage, which provides safe anchorage for vessels heading into port (an average of 323 vessels per year).
However, we await further developments as Defra has stated they will undertake further discussions regarding boundary alterations and additional information will be gathered ahead of consideration in the third tranche.