Yesterday the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) announced that together with Natural England (NE) they have presented the formal Advice Package on 127 recommended Marine Conservation Zones to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).
According to the JNCC this advice marks the latest step towards the Government's objective to create a well-managed network of Marine Protected Areas to help protect the range of habitats and species in our seas by the end of 2016.
The Advice Package is being provided to Defra to support the decisions the Environment Minister will make on the designation of MCZs after a formal public consultation is held (the consultation will start in December 2012).
Caroline Price RYA Planning and Environment Advisor ""We will review this advice to government with interest as it is likely to influence Ministers thinking and ultimate decision making".
The four regional MCZ projects submitted their final recommendations to JNCC and Natural England in September 2011. Since then, JNCC and Natural England have assessed the ecological implications of the four projects' recommendations for MCZs, and the ecological evidence base for the sites.
At the same time, economists from the four regional MCZ projects have prepared socio-economic impact assessments for each MCZ, as well as for all the sites combined.
All of this information - the regional MCZ projects' recommendations (from September 2011), the regional MCZ projects' impact assessments, and JNCC and Natural England's formal advice regarding the ecological evidence - is being brought together to make up the Advice Package presented to Defra on 18th July.
The JNCC report that between now and the end of the year, Defra will assess each component of the Advice Package and will provide its own impact assessment, which will be used during the three month public consultation that will open in December 2012.
Following the consultation, it is anticipated that the Minister will select: Sites that are backed by robust evidence, to designate in summer 2013 Sites where further evidence is required, to designate at a later stage Sites that are not considered suitable to progress
"The RYA will be commenting as part of the public consultation process and will be looking to ensure that recreational boating's safety and navigation are taken into account across all the sites selected"
Once the first wave of MCZs is designated in summer 2013, the JNCC says that they will provide, with NE, their conservation advice packages for each site to help inform how these sites should be managed. Management measures will be proposed by the appropriate regulatory authority for each designated MCZ and finalised following local consultations and input from sea users and other interested parties.
"Depending on which sites the Minister selects this will be an important stage for the RYA in ensuring that any management measures considered by the regulating authority that may affect recreational boating are proportionate, consistent and based on sound evidence" concludes Caroline.
You can read the MCZ Advice Package on the JNCC website and the Natural England website: