MPA Coalition Outlines Work Programme

23rd June 2010 in MPAs

The MPA Coalition met recently in Fishmongers Hall, in London, to shape its future work programme.

The Coalition has been active for six months and has firmly established itself as a way of holding Government and the nature conservation agencies to account on marine protected areas.

Chairman of the Coalition Dr Stephen Lockwood said,

“We are entering a critical stage in the establishment of marine conservation zones; yet it is clear that there is a huge amount of fear within the fishing industry that this is a juggernaut that will not be stopped. There are genuine concerns that fishermen will be displaced from their customary fishing grounds and will lose their livelihoods.

“On the one hand we are assured that this is an evidence-based, stakeholder-led process that will take account of the fishing industry’s concerns. On the other hand are the short-comings in process, evidence and a completely unrealistic timetable that undermines this whole process.”

The Coalition has requested an urgent meeting with new Fisheries Minister, Richard Benyon, to discuss its numerous concerns and to argue for a more considered, less rushed timetable.

“It is within the Minister’s powers to instil greater confidence in this process” Dr Lockwood added. “The Marine and Countryside Act, and equivalent legislation in the devolved jurisdictions, laid the basis for a network of marine protected areas but the process we are witnessing is far away from that envisaged. The Coalition will ask the Minister to intervene. The timetable was not set by this Government and the programme is given more time if it is to gain widespread support.”

At its meeting the Coalition appointed a decision-making Council and agreed that it will appoint negotiating teams as necessary with intimate knowledge of the areas concerned. In the meantime the Coalition will be continue its high level engagement with Government and the conservation agencies on points of principle.

“We expect that when the first ‘iteration’ of the proposed designated MCZ sites are unveiled there will be much consternation in the industry,” Dr Lockwood said. “It is important that the industry hangs together, and works through the Coalition to inject an element of balance and proportion into the process.”