Marine Conservation in Yorkshire

‘You can please some of the fish some of the time but not all of the piscene critters all of the time.’  Of the original 27 conservations zones none were on or near the Yorkshire coast. The nearest is the Aln estuary.

Defra’s new  areas for marine conservation do include the Yorkshire locations of Holderness from Skipsea to Spurn Point and Runswick Bay both of which are important for various species including starfish and crabs. However Compass Rose, 20 miles off the Yorkshire coast, which is an important place for plaice, herring, lemon sole and sand eels, is one of 14 sites that has been dropped from the new consultation.

 New Marine Conservation Zones

Runswick Bay north of Whitby to to Staithes boasts a highly productive seabed. It has important spawning and nursery grounds for many fish, including herring, sprat, cod, whiting and plaice. Harbour porpoises are regularly recorded here alongside foraging seabirds, such as kittiwakes. The Wildlife Trust says one reason to nominate this area as a Marine Conservation Zone is the  ‘Shallow rocky areas here are dominated by kelps and red seaweeds whereas deeper areas are encrusted in a living faunal turf of sponges, sea squirts, sea urchins and starfish. Interspersed with sand and gravel, this area is also important for burrowing creatures such as worms…. ‘

Holderness from Skipsea to Spurn Point is another proposed Yorkshire MCZ. ‘The seafloor here boasts a wealth of diversity, including habitats of cobbles, mixed sediment, sand and chalk, alongside patches of peat and clay. This mosaic supports a dense coverage of hydroid and bryozoan turf, sponges and ross worm reef as well as many fish, including tope and smoothhound. Over 8 different types of crabs have been seen at Holderness Inshore as well as the purple bloody henry starfish and common sunstars. Harbour porpoises and minke whales are often spotted from the shore passing through this area.’

Sea birds are also set to benefit -‘Holderness Inshore is  important for foraging seabirds as well as migrants. Within the southern region is ‘The Binks’, a geological feature forming the seaward extension of Spurn Point. This site also protects the geological feature, Spurn Head, which is in the south of the MCZ. It is a unique example of an active spit system, extending across the mouth of the Humber Estuary.Fulmar MCZ well off the Northumberland coast is as the name suggest an important area for seabirds, black-headed gull, northern fulmar, Arctic skua and black-legged kittiwake use this area, whilst breeding common guillemot and Arctic skua use this site during winter.’

 Are Marine Conservation Zones Strong Enough?

 MCZs are ‘multi-use areas’ and not the far stronger no-take marine reserves. Multi-use will allow many activities to continue within them with their own set of restrictions and management.

Professor Callum Roberts, at the University of York a noted conservationists warns that missing key sites are still putting habitats and wildlife, ranging from large seagrass meadows to the spiny seahorse, at risk.

Professor Roberts is also reported to say “….. the UK’s rich marine life has very little protection. That may sound paradoxical, but six years after the Marine Act was passed, MCZs are still ‘paper parks’. They have no management at all, so life within them remains unprotected. They will be worse than useless, giving the illusion of protection where none is present.”


Picture under Creative commons


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