A long-fought campaign to create the first-ever sea sanctuaries where all damaging activities will be banned has received backing from the Government.
Last year, the Benyon review of Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) was published by Defra. The Wildlife Trusts backed its recommendations that HPMAs should be an essential part of the UK network for protection and recovery of the marine environment, and that the government should introduce HPMAs as soon as possible.
Today, on World Oceans Day, Defra has announced it will begin the process for designating HPMAs by the end of 2022, setting an ambitious commitment to protect our seas. The Wildlife Trusts believe there is an overwhelming case for the designation of HPMAs which would see a ban on all damaging activities, offering the strictest possible protections for the marine environment and giving nature the best chance of recovery.
Cumbria Wildlife Trust is among the trusts involved in calling for the change.
Local marine officer, Georgia de Jong Cleyndert said: “This is fantastic news for our seas. Highly Protected Marine Areas will be an essential tool to protect our precious underwater wildlife on a large scale and a massive step in the right direction for ocean recovery. At Cumbria Wildlife Trust, we have been campaigning for HPMAs for the last three years.
“The Benyon Review has a list of recommended sites for such protection, including some in the Irish Sea, both inshore and offshore. Whilst we are unsure which sites will be designated, The Wildlife Trusts will be calling for designations to encompass a range of habitats in all regional seas. HPMAs will help to tackle climate change and will lead to healthier, more abundant seas. This really is a momentous announcement.”
Following today’s announcement, The Wildlife Trusts will be participating in the Government’s consultation process: they believe HPMAs should be designated in each regional sea, in inshore, nearshore and offshore English waters, encompassing a range of habitats so that experts can study how different ecosystems recover when pressures are reduced.
In order for HPMAs to be effective, The Wildlife Trusts are calling for:
- HPMAs to be a whole-site approach, protecting all the wildlife and habitats within their boundaries with effective management measures
- HPMAs should be sufficient in size and number, and well monitored to understand what happens when damaging activities are removed and how our seas can recover
- This will also help us determine appropriate management measures for the rest of the Marine Protected Area network
- HPMAs must provide a higher level of protection than other types of protected area, allowing marine areas to return to as natural a state as possible, with more wildlife
The designation of HPMAs will act as a mechanism for recovery and should contribute significantly to the Government’s commitment to protecting 30 per cent of our seas by 2030. HPMAs will also act as a natural solution to help store carbon and tackle climate change, as well as generating benefits through tourism, recreation and marine education.