Zone would help safeguard fishing

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THE creation of a marine conservation zone at Runswick Bay would help to secure fishing on the Whitby coast for years to come, according to the Wildlife Trust.

The 67.92 kilometre square area of coastline is a breeding and nursery area for species such as herring, cod, whiting and plaice, and the conservation group is hoping that a MCZ designation would help secure the future of the vital habitat.

A Common Starfish pictured by Kate Sanders

A Common Starfish pictured by Kate Sanders

Kirsten Smith, North Sea living seas manager for the Wildlife Trusts said: “The really exciting thing about this site is it represents a wide range of habitats.

“What it would mean is that the site will be monitored for a better understanding of what’s there. It also means that the level of activities will be monitored in terms of impact.”

A ban on trawling already exists in the area, which Mrs Smith said has led to the sea bed flowering into a thriving ecosystem, with 12 different types of seabed habitat now present.

Coble fishing will continue to be permitted in the area as it is seen as largely unintrusive, but there would be restrictions on how many fishermen would be allowed to work the coastline.

A forest of kelp at Runswick Bay'Picture by Chris Wood

A forest of kelp at Runswick Bay'Picture by Chris Wood

Restricted areas have a knock-on effect, as populations of marine life thrive, grow larger, and spill out into unprotected regions. This could ensure the survival of small-scale coble fishing in the Whitby area for years to come.

The Marine and Coast Access Act 2009 allowed the creation of marine conservation zones and 127 potential sites have been identified by statutory agencies such as Defra and Natural England, of which Runswick Bay is one.

The conservation zones do not need to focus specifically upon saving rare species, but are instead aimed at maintaining important habitats that are typical to the British coastline, and linking these together in a nationwide ecology network.

“That’s an important function of these zones,” said Mrs Smith. “Protecting areas that provide key support to specific lifestyle functions such as birthing or nurseries, safely guarding the species”.

In December the Government chose 31 of the 127 sites for designation next year, only one of which is in the North Sea.

Mrs Smith said: “Generally we are really disappointed that after all that work, a lot of the Yorkshire sites haven’t got into the first round. Our call to action is for people to take part in the consultation and push the agenda to get it higher up for next time.

“One of the stepping stones is the areas are just lines on maps that don’t mean much to Government officials.

“It’s about bringing those sites to life. If an area has special meaning to them, the more likely it is to add weight and have them designated.”

Although a decision has been made for this round of MCZ designations, there is still time for people to make an impact upon future decisions, with a public consultation period running until the end of March.

To have your say visit www.wildlifetrust.org/haveyoursay