Gus Lewis, Head of Legal and Government Affairs stressed the need for robust and balanced evidence to support the designation of Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) whilst giving evidence to the Environmental Audit Committee this week.  

The RYA is concerned about what appears to be a growing disparity between the amount of evidence relating to the environmental benefits of designation and that relating to the socio-economic impacts of designation.

"The Government is investing in the gathering of environmental data but not in the latter, which places the socio-economic argument at a disadvantage.  

"We support the Government's current objective approach that if lawful activities are potentially going to be regulated or prohibited then this must be based on objectively robust evidence rather than merely the best available evidence.

"We believe that such robust evidence must clearly demonstrate that the protected flora and fauna does exist and that it cannot reasonably co-exist with local activities.

"However, if there is an imbalance in the evidence available then the decision-making cannot be objective".  

The RYA also reiterated the need for some indication of potential management measures early on in the process of designation.    

"Throughout the MCZ process the RYA consistently argued that it is just not possible to analyse the potential impact of an MCZ on recreational boating without some indication of the management measures that might be implemented," concludes Gus.  

The Environmental Audit Committee is examining a range of topics in relation to MCZs following the Science and Technology Committee's report last year including: plans for implementing the 27 so far approved MCZs, how they will be monitored, managed and enforced, the plans to improve the evidence base for considering potential further Zones and what the balance of factors should be.

Image: Paul Kay