Lyme Bay sanctuary concerns

PUBLISHED: 10:58 10 December 2011

Lyme Bay

Lyme Bay

Archant

Government cuts could threaten efforts to protect wildlife off Exmouth's coastline.

Wildlife charities have slammed the government for postponing plans for a seaborne wildlife sanctuary.

Both the RSPB, who operates the Exe Estuary bird sanctuary, and the Devon Wildlife Trust, fear that the government intends to renege on the plans.

A total of 127 marine conservation zones (MCZs) were planned under the Labour government around the UK’s coastline.

One of the MCZs was earmarked for Lyme Bay and encompasses East Devon’s coastline and commercial exploitation or damage would have been banned.

Conservationists hailed the moves to protect wildlife and habitats - but the fishing and shipping industry say it will cost them their livelihoods.

But now environment minister Richard Benyon has confirmed that no sites will be designated before 2013, a year later than planned, because there were a ‘number of gaps and limitations’ in the exhaustive scientific research carried out.

Harry Barton, chief executive of the Devon Wildlife Trust, said: “Our seas are suffering serious damage and need protection now,

“This was to be a landmark moment in protecting our marine environment. There is indisputable evidence that the wildlife in our seas is declining.”

Tony Whitehead, of the RSPB in the South West, said he was concerned with proposals to reduce the number of MCZ’s and said there were no guarantees about when further sites would be put forward.

“While the available evidence may not be perfect, it is certainly enough to support site designation in many locations.

“The RSPB is very concerned there will be nothing left in the English marine conservation zone network for seabirds at all, and the benefits for other marine wildlife will be dramatically reduced.”

Martin Harper, RSPB’s director of conservation said: “We can, and will, continue to do all we can to support marine research and site designation, but in reality we will never get the evidence we need to support the marine protected network area unless government steps up and provides resources to support adequate monitoring of our sealife.”

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