250,000 demand greater protection of coast

Updated on in News

A 250,000 name petition will be handed to the Government today to call for greater protection of the south coast.

It comes after dozens of the 127 proposed marine conservation zones were judged by Government advisers to be at high risk.

But wildlife groups were left dismayed when it emerged they would not be immediately protected.

One such site is Bembridge, a coastal area to the east of the Isle of Wight, which is made up of a mosaic of habitats from limestone reefs to sand and gravel beds.

It is home to a number of important species and habitats which the marine conservation zones are focused on protecting, including maerl and peacock's tail seaweed, kaleidoscope stalked jellyfish, short and long snouted seahorses and seagrass beds.


Sea bream breed in the thin layer of gravel in the bay, while the rocky areas are habitat for sponges and juvenile edible crabs, which can be seen scuttling for cover when rocks are upturned.

Unlike some proposed sites, Bembridge has been well studied, enabling conservationists to provide plenty of evidence of the species which are there, according to Jolyon Chesworth, head of marine conservation for Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust.

''Bembridge is well known, it's been well researched and there's lots of evidence going back 40 to 50 years, so we've got a good idea not just of what is here but what was here.

''It's a really quite complex matrix of habitats in this area that makes Bembridge particularly special,'' Mr Chesworth said.

It is a key site for rare species, such as the once- common peacock's tail seaweed, now only found off the shores of three counties, with the Isle of Wight the national stronghold and Bembridge the stronghold across the island. Mr Chesworth said the area was not at risk from the most damaging of activities such as dredging, but there were issues with some kinds of fishing and anchoring of ships, including commercial vessels heading for Southampton Port.

''If they weren't managed, these habitats would be at risk,'' he warned.

In its decision on whether to designate Bembridge, the Environment Department (Defra) said that while there was evidence it was important for a number of species, costs would top £183,000 a year, mostly as a result of impacts on recreational sailing.

There would also be ''significant unquantified cost'' associated with cargo ships anchoring outside Southampton Port, which needed further assessment. But Mr Chesworth said officials had not taken into account the potential benefits of designation, including boosting small-scale fisheries such as crab potting which would be allowed to continue.

He said the evidence required for environmental assessment was greater than for socio-economic impacts.

And he warned officials had placed renewed emphasis on economic impacts when assessing the sites, even though they had already been taken into account by stakeholders ranging from wildlife groups to fishermen who had helped come up with the proposals for where conservation zones should be.

''The sites have been designed around a compromise between environment and socio-economics. The whole design process led to the final recommendations with a significant influence of socio-economics,'' he said.

He was ''absolutely staggered'' at the failure to designate any of the nine proposed marine conservation zones off the coasts of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.

Most read

People who read this also read


9:13am Tue 22 Jan 13 The Wickham Man says…

It seems that all that shipping activity must be good for peacocks tail seaweed seeing as it thrives so well under Bembridge Shipping Roads. Therefore we should develop Dibden Bay without fail and extend the refinery, so that we can have more shipping creainng even better environments for this wonderful weed.

  • Score: 0

9:44am Tue 22 Jan 13 peenut81 says…

Out of touch elite: '' So we can't sail of the island this summer, because of some bloody seaweed?'' Out of touch civil servant: ''No sir, the environmental lobby is very insistent and 250,000 made the effort to express their concern.'' Out of touch elite: '' Well, we're see about that, this recession is still going on they tell me, (I wouldn't know) so tell the minister of DEFRA that if he goes ahead with this, the region will suffer as us yachties don't come down and spend any money when we stay at our second homes for a few days each summer.'' Civil servant: '' What about public concern for the marine environment, why its just been announced we nearly caught all the mackerel left in the wild.'' Elite: '' Sod 'em, everyone knows economics and the rich staying rich is the primary reason we have a bloody government anyway, do what we always do when an issue effects the rich in their leisure activities, say it will effect commerce in an unspecified way and leave it at that.''

  • Score: 0

7:53pm Tue 22 Jan 13 forest hump says…

I am "absolutely staggered" that we should even consider this proposal? A cost to benefit study would result in this being thrown out....as it should be. Let us spend our limited money (thanks to sponging benefit claimers and unscrupulous members of government at all levels) on real issues. Who gives a to$$ about stinking stalked jellyfish?

  • Score: 0
Comments are closed on this article