Marine experts are urging visitors and residents to back a campaign to protect Whitby’s coastline.
The Government has put forward two potential sites for new conservation areas, which are located to the north and south of the town.
One of the sites is a 68 sq km zone stretching three miles out to sea, straddling Runswick Bay. The other is Holderness Inshore, a three-mile long stretch extending north from the Humber Estuary, covering 307 sq km.
The Sea Life Centre in nearby Scarborough is asking the public to support the proposals in a bid to preserve vital habitats and wildlife.
Sea Life’s Lyndsey Crawford said: “The seabed across the Runswick Bay site has both rock and sediment features and an intertidal area with rocky reefs, boulders, pools, sandy beaches and caves. Eight species of crab thrive in the offshore waters, which are also spawning grounds for many fish.
“The Holderness zone hosts diverse species from algae, sponges and crustaceans to fish like dab and wrasse. It’s also an important feeding ground for our native grey and common seals.”
The Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has proposed 23 new marine conservation zones in the second stage of creating a network of protected areas in the seas around England – down from 37 candidate sites announced last year.
So far, just 27 zones have been designated in English waters, although 127 sites were recommended by regional groups tasked with drawing up potential sites to protect ocean species and habitats.
Conservationists warn the latest set of proposed zones, which will now be subject to public consultation, are missing key sites and putting habitats and wildlife at risk.
Ms Crawford added: “While everyone was disappointed that so few conservation zones were approved in the first tranche, and only 23 are being considered this year, they do include two that are of special significance to us here.
“Protection for these zones will mean commercial activities are controlled to minimise their impact, but fishermen won’t be affected at all. Dredging and dredge disposal are the chief problems for these sites.
“Without that protection these habitats are at risk of irreparable damage. We have until April 24 to convince the Government they should be approved, so we want as many people as possible to get behind the campaign.”
To support the bid sign a petition at www.mcsuk.org/mpa/consultation