Yesterday (1st February 2021), the Marine Management Organisation launched a formal consultation seeking views on proposals to manage activity in four of England’s offshore Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). This has received coverage in the Daily Telegraph, Times, Daily Express, the I, BBC News online, ITV News online as well as the Yorkshire Post and Western Morning News.
The formal consultation follows an initial call for evidence, announced in October 2020, and forms the next phase of the Government’s ambitious plans for a ‘Blue Belt’ of marine protected areas around the UK’s seas. The consultation will run from 1st February 2021 until 28th March 2021.
The MMO is consulting on byelaws being proposed under new powers, made possible by leaving the Common Fisheries Policy and passing of the Fisheries Act, the UK’s first major domestic fisheries legislation in nearly 40 years. These byelaws aim to prohibit fishing activities in Marine Protected Areas where there is evidence that they harm wildlife or damage habitats. The proposed byelaws seek to prohibit the use of bottom towed fishing gear in all four sites and additional restrictions for static gears over sensitive features in two of the sites.
Environment Secretary George Eustice said:
Now that we have left the Common Fisheries Policy, we are able to deliver on our commitment to achieve a healthy, thriving and sustainable marine environment.
The UK has already established an impressive ‘Blue Belt’ covering 38% of our waters and our Fisheries Act has provided us with additional powers to go further to protect our seas around England.
This proposal to introduce byelaws to safeguard four of our precious offshore Marine Protected Areas shows how we are putting these powers into action.
As a global leader in marine protection, UK Government is putting sustainable fishing and protection of our seas at the heart of its future fishing strategy. Action is already being taken to tackle unsustainable activities within England’s seas, with management measures introduced in many inshore sites through byelaws introduced by both MMO and the Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities.
The UK is wholly committed to ensuring we have a healthy, sustainable and economically profitable marine environment for future generations and our precious marine life is able to thrive.