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Dose of Legal Reality for No Take Zones
Defra has given the MPA Fishing Coalition a clear assurance that fisheries management measures that would ban fishing outright in so called reference area Marine Conservation Zones (MCZ) must be consistent with the legal requirements that fishing must be deemed to be damaging to the conservation features of an MCZ in order for it to be subject to limitation or a ban.
Dale Rodmell, a spokesperson for the Coalition said: "This is a welcome recognition of what the legislation allows for and follows a sustained campaign of the Coalition to shine a light on the legal logic underpinning MCZs designated under the Marine and Coastal Access Act."
Official guidance from Natural England and JNCC, as well as Defra had previously indicated that all fishing would be automatically banned in such areas. This acknowledgement puts such requirements in clear doubt.
The Coalition is calling for such areas, identified as controls to compare ecology with other MCZ sites, to be scrapped as part of the network of MCZs.
He continued: "Such areas were identified in haste with minimal knowledge of what was actually located in the areas; more akin to a pin the tail on the donkey approach to Marine Protected Area (MPA) planning."
"Planning for MPA marine science needs to be far more carefully thought through, drawing on a sufficient evidence base and giving careful consideration to finding synergies with existing human uses."
"For all of the touted stakeholder led approach to planning English MCZs, this aspect has been especially controversial, conducted under a camouflaged, top-down manner that charged stakeholder groups at last minute to identify a set quota of sufficiently sized sites. At best it was controversial; at worst it amounted to coaxing members of the public, many who had no direct interest in the areas, to do the bidding for an iron fist approach," he said.
The same legal requirements of the Act also apply to the Welsh MCZs that are proposed as no take zones, of which there are 10 options currently subject to public consultation.
Following a selection process conducted behind government closed doors, these options have raised considerable irk among a whole section of interests, as well as the fishing industry, in response to the prospect of banning the majority of activities in sites that overwhelmingly are near-shore, extending seawards from the coastline.
"It is difficult to see how such proposals can remain viable in their current form against the backdrop of the legal requirements of the Act", Dale Rodmell said.