Solent loses out in sea reforms

Seahorses are found in the Solent
Seahorses are found in the Solent

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CONSERVATIONISTS have spoken of their disappointment after no area in the Solent was given extra protection as part of a national scheme to protect marine wildlife.

The government has announced it will create 27 Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) to protect flora and fauna in the seas around the English coast.

The zones are aimed at protecting seahorses, coral reefs and oyster beds and other sensitive species from dredging and bottom-trawling.

But the number of designations is significantly fewer than the 127 zones originally proposed – including seven in the Solent.

They included Fareham Creek – home to a population of native oysters – as well as Selsey Bill and an area called ‘Utopia’, between Selsey and the Isle of Wight, that is home to fragile sponge, coral and anemone communities.

Marine biologist Louise MacCallum, the environment officer for Langstone Harbour, told The News: ‘This is a brilliant step in the right direction.

‘But there were 127 areas recommended. There’s 100 left to go and that’s a lot. As someone who is really passionate about marine conservation it makes me sad that none of the marine conservation zones put forward is in the Solent. The Solent has some really unique and important marine habitat sites.’

Dr Tim Ferrero, head of marine conservation at Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, said: ‘We strongly ask for these important and diverse sites featuring nationally important areas of seagrasses and reefs and supporting a tremendous diversity of marine life, to be considered for designation as soon as possible.’

Marine environment minister George Eustice said there were ‘gaps in the evidence’ in support of some of the original 127 MCZs.

He said: ‘It’s the right thing to do, to do this in phases, to start with 27, and to build on that.’

He said this was ‘just the beginning’, adding: ‘Almost a quarter of English inshore waters and nine per cent of UK waters will now be better protected.’

Pagham Harbour, near Bognor, was designated as one of the new zones.