New campaign to protect wildlife at sea

Cheshire Wildlife Trust is calling on everyone to join a giant wave of support for 41 new Marine Conservation Zones. This Friday marks International Mud Day, so it is the perfect time for people to take action to support marine conservation.

Recently, the government launched a consultation asking the public for their views about protecting a new group of Marine Conservation Zones. These are areas at sea where wildlife is protected from damaging activities. 41 special places were chosen for public consideration including six in our local Irish Sea.

“South Rigg and Queenie Corner are two areas that have been put forward as Marine Conservation Zones in the Irish Sea,” explained Martin Varley, Director of Conservation at Cheshire Wildlife Trust. “This is to protect the muddy seabed which is rich in an enormous range of marine life. In fact, it is as rich a habitat as the Amazon rainforest! I’d encourage everyone to take a minute to add their name in support of the new Marine Conservation Zones on International Mud Day.”

Sea pen and scampi c. Paul Naylor

Sea pen and scampi c. Paul Naylor

Protection for the mud habitats of the Irish Sea will help to fill a significant gap in the current Marine Conservation Zone network. Less than 10% of subtidal mud is currently protected – and by the Government’s own recommendations, we need 15 to 30% protected to complete the network.

A weird and wonderful array of creatures burrow into the soft muddy and sandy seabed to make their homes, including: sea pens, burrowing anemones, ocean quahogs, Dublin Bay prawns (Scampi) and sea potatoes. Above the seabed, the waters are home to declining populations of fish, overfished over decades and now a shadow of their former richness. Dolphins and minke whales roam these waters, seeking out a fish supper alongside thousands of seabirds. But these mud habitats and the wildlife they support are under threat. They need your support now to ensure that they are protected for the future.

“Designating these sites as Marine Conservation Zones would be good news for wildlife in the Irish Sea,” said Martin Varley. “It would create safe havens from trawling, allowing numbers of marine life to recover, thrive again and spill over into surrounding areas.  The world’s longest-lived animal, the ocean quahog, is found in the South Rigg proposed Marine Conservation Zone. In the longer-term, protection would ensure that habitats and species that have declined could become common again. Excitingly, this could mean more seabirds, more whales and more dolphins and greater opportunities for coastal tourism all around the Irish Sea.”

To join the giant #WaveOfSupport e-action campaign which sends a message to government calling for all 41 potential Marine Conservation Zones to be recognised and protected – people should visit www.wildlifetrusts.org/waveofsupport

The e-action will be open until Friday 20th July and as part of the process people get to choose a seal, crab or dolphin to be added to the animated sea.

The Wildlife Trusts believe that the consultation is a step in the right direction for England’s seas.  Proper protection of these sites after designation will be essential to ensure that our seas will be given the opportunity to recover.