UK doubles Marine Conservation Zones, but will it help?

seagrass bed underwater marine plant
CC BY 2.0 Heather Dine / NOAA Photo Library

There's been an encouraging increase in new marine conservation zones in recent years, but still—the total area of oceans that is truly protected is nowhere near what it should be.

So, on paper at least, news from The Guardian that Britain is doubling its number of Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs), designating 20% of its waters as protected areas, should be welcome news indeed.

Unfortunately, it may be welcome news only on paper—because the management plans that go along with protected status simply aren't there. And while the government is promising the development of effective management plans within the next two years, Professor Callum Roberts of the University of York—one of the country's leading experts on ocean conservation—is not entirely convinced. Here's how he framed the situation for The Guardian:

“I am deeply skeptical of what it will achieve.” He said, for example, there are already moves to open up a “special area of conservation” in Cardigan Bay to scallop dredging: “It is one of the most destructive fishing methods in the world, turning habitats into rubble and leaving trails of dead and dying creatures in its wake.”

That said, I tend to be an optimist about these things. Once a government is committed to protecting its resources, citizens and environmental groups have the leverage they need to at least try to hold them accountable. So this is a welcome first step.

But now the real work starts.

UK doubles Marine Conservation Zones, but will it help?
Designated conservation areas are only as useful as the protections we give them.

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