Lancashire Wildlife Trust will be making a splash this year when it opens nature reserves – in the Irish Sea!
During this 50th anniversary year it will join with the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts, which is celebrating its centenary, to press the Government to designate 127 Marine Conservation Zones around the UK.
Four of those zones would be around the coast of Lancashire and Merseyside - Fylde Offshore, Sefton Coast, Wyre-Lune and Ribble Estuary.
The 127 zones were selected through consultation with more than a million interested parties. The list is based on the best available evidence with recommendations made in 2011 and designation originally expected in 2012. However, the Government has stalled on designation of any sites until 2013, blaming lack of evidence. There are fears that even then only a small proportion will be chosen.
Lancashire Wildlife Trust today launches a campaign to recruit “Friends of Marine Conservation Zones”. The campaign is linked to a new online site providing details of locations, species and habitats for all of the 127 recommended zones. The Wildlife Trust hopes to inspire individuals to stand up for the extraordinary marine species and habitats in English and offshore Welsh waters, particularly in the Irish Sea.
Sir David Attenborough, Vice President of The Wildlife Trusts, said: “We have the first country-wide list of marine sites needing protection. It cost over £8m to draw up. I urge the Government to designate the full list of 127 sites now, for day by day the wildlife in these sites is being destroyed and damaged. Time is running out for us to save our fragile seas."
Simon King, President of The Wildlife Trusts, said: “We have reached a crisis point for the health of our marine environment. We need to act now.
“The point is not to add a few more protected sites scattered randomly around our seas, nor is it simply to protect the rarest and most vulnerable of our species. The Marine Conservation Zone network represents a joined-up way of thinking - a way of balancing a natural credit account from which we have been drawing carelessly for decades and which now is in deep and dreadful debt.”
Lindsay Sullivan, Marine Conservation Officer for the North West Wildlife Trusts, said: “There are increasing demands being placed on our precious Irish Sea in what is actually a relatively small area. It is vital that we set areas aside for wildlife now, before there is no space left. Whilst the Government treads water, wildlife-rich areas in our oceans continue to suffer degradation.
“Many of us are passionate about our local wildlife hotspots on land, and vocal about protecting them. But we don’t often see what’s living below the surface of the Irish Sea. If we are better able to understand our local marine life, and understand what it means to the community, we are more likely to push for its protection.”
To find out more about your local recommended Marine Conservation Zone and sign up to be a Friend, visit www.wildlifetrusts.org/MCZfriends.
ALL PICTURES BY PAUL NAYLOR