‘Give marine life a fighting chance’

A bottlenose dolphin
A bottlenose dolphin
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WITH the Irish Sea getting busier with firms searching for oil and gas and continued fishing – conservationists say more needs to be done to give sea life a fighting chance.

The Government revealed details of where it plans to place around 25 per cent of the 127 proposed Marine Conservation Zones (MCZ) – intended to preserve sea life – as it launched a consultation to create 10,900 km2 of zones in its first phase next year.

Fylde Offshore – a large expanse of sea situated between Blackpool and Southport – is one of the zones which are set to be protected by the prevention of trawling and dredging on the ocean floor.

But conservationists say more areas must be designated quickly to maintain fish reserves and to protect thousands of other species which live on the sea bed, including basking sharks, bottlenose dolphins and turtles.

Lindsay Sullivan, a marine conservation officer with the North West Wildlife Trust, said: “Designation of an ecologically coherent network would provide our seas with the protection they need to recover from past abuses.

“It would also help them to be restored to their full potential.”

The Natural Environment Minister, Richard Benyon, said the Government must be sure to get the right sites designated as MCZs.

He said: “Designating the right sites in the right places, so that our seas are sustainable, productive and healthy, and to ensure that the right balance is struck between conservation and industry.”

Conservationists say if action is not taken to allow more areas of the seabed to replenish itself there are fears fishing waters and some species will be lost.

Two species of whale and dolphin are already extinct in UK waters.

The Wildlife Trust is working with Sea Life Centre Blackpool to build support for MCZs but finds residents do not relate to marine life as they do with other wildlife.

Dave Dunlop, Living Seas Champion for Lancashire Wildlife Trust, said: “While there’s a lot out there it’s harder to see.

“The economic activity has been increasing – more fishing, searching for gas and oil, dredging. The Irish Sea is getting busier and busier.”

Blackpool Sea Life Centre general manager Jenn Newton said she felt the environment minister was being swayed by larger companies representing fishermen, the yachting fraternity and dredging companies when allocating zones.

She said: “We will not be deterred. Even if all 127 are approved, that will only cover about 27 per cent of our coastal seas, and that is the minimum needed to give our marine life a fighting chance.”

David McGrath, sustainability manager at Solaris Centre, Blackpool, suggests people should head to the Fylde coast and fully explore what the Irish Sea has on offer.

He said: “People should get out there and enjoy it, appreciate what we’ve got.”