Issue 9: March 2012

Hello and welcome to the MCZ Project Newsletter - designed to keep stakeholders up-to-date with the work of the Marine Conservation Zone Project through to designation.

In this update:

  • Your opinion matters – how and when it is being taken into account
  • The MCZ impact assessment: your questions answered
  • Gathering more evidence
  • The in-depth review of evidence supporting the recommended MCZs
  • The Red Tape Challenge – have your say about marine regulation


Your opinion matters

We understand that many people are concerned that the MCZs recommended by the regional MCZ projects, if designated, might prevent them doing the activities or work that they currently do. The government’s policy is to minimise negative impacts on sea users as much as possible, while still delivering the much needed protection for our marine wildlife and habitats.  If you are concerned about the possibility that MCZs might affect your activities, here are some things that might be helpful to know:

  • The MCZ designation process has been designed to take into consideration as much information as possible to provide Ministers with a comprehensive picture of the situation, on which they can base their decisions. The process is staged, with opportunities for different people and organisations to feed information and opinions into the process at different times. If you weren’t involved in developing the MCZ recommendations that were submitted by the regional MCZ projects in September 2011, there are further opportunities to share your views during the Public Consultation in December 2012.
  • The recommendations made by the regional MCZ projects are not final. Ministers will consider them along with additional evidence, the Impact Assessment, advice from the statutory nature conservation bodies and the feedback from the Public Consultation before they make any decisions on the MCZs that will be designated.
  • At this stage, the regional MCZ projects recommendations cannot be changed and they will be submitted to government unaltered in July 2012, along with the advice from Natural England and JNCC, and the material for the Impact Assessment that has also been developed by the regional projects. If you have concerns about the sites, alternative suggestions, or want to record your support, the time when these can be submitted for consideration is during the Public Consultation.
  • Natural England and JNCC will submit advice to the government on the MCZ recommendations.  The purpose of this is to advise Ministers on how well the sites recommended by the regional MCZ projects meet the ecological criteria set out at the beginning of the Project.  The advice will include an assessment of the evidence used to develop the recommendations. Where possible, evidence that has become available since the regional MCZ project developed their recommendations will be considered to provide a view on whether the features, boundaries and conservation objectives put forward in the recommendations are appropriate.  Our assessment may lead to our advice being different from that of the regional MCZ project recommendations.  The advice package will be publicly available in July 2012.
  • Our advice will not consider or comment on suggestions made about sites since the regional MCZ projects made their recommendations last September. These additional comments will be gathered during the Public Consultation.
  • It is the responsibility of Public Authorities to implement necessary management measures once MCZs are designated.  Natural England and JNCC will provide detailed advice to Public Authorities on the sensitivity of MCZ habitats and species following designation. This will help them decide which activities need management in order to reduce their impact.  Up to that point Public Authorities and the general public can get an idea of which activities may require management from the draft conservation objectives provided in the regional MCZ project final recommendations and our advice. 
  • The Impact Assessment will enable Ministers to consider the whole spectrum of potential costs and benefits of designating MCZs and be considered as part of the process to forming an opinion on which sites they may wish to designate.

Our seas are incredibly valuable. We rely on them for industry, energy, food sources and recreational pleasure, as well as less tangible, but equally important things such as contributing to a healthy and functioning natural environment on which we rely. We are seeking to find room to protect the marine environment while preserving the economic value of our seas and encouraging its sustainable use by industry and individuals.


The MCZ impact assessment: your questions answered

The MCZ Project welcomes your feedback and questions. We have had lots of enquiries about the MCZ impact assessment. You can find out more from our MCZ impact assessment factsheet or the following frequently asked questions:


Who is responsible for the impact assessment (IA) – Is it Natural England and JNCC?  If not what is the role of Natural England and JNCC?

The IA is being developed and is owned by the regional MCZ projects with support from the Statutory Nature Conservation Bodies (SNCBs) – Natural England and JNCC - and Defra experts to ensure it satisfies Government requirements.


Is the draft material for the IA available for comment?

Over the last few months the regional MCZ projects have invited the Regional Stakeholder Groups (RSGs) and the named consultative stakeholders to comment on the draft material for the IA in three batches – new material on impacts was presented with each batch. 

The final date for comment on the last batch of material was 5th March 2012.


Can other stakeholders be sent draft material for the IA on request?

No. Stakeholders who have been directly involved in developing the site recommendations, members of the RSGs and named consultative stakeholders were invited to undertake this review.  These groups had the option to invite the stakeholders that they represent to input to the review. 


Is there an opportunity for feedback from national stakeholder bodies on material for the IA?

The opportunity to provide feedback on draft material for the IA during the drafting stage did not represent a full scale consultation but provided people who have been directly involved in developing the site recommendations to provide feedback.  The chance for other stakeholders and the general public to provide feedback will come at a later stage when Defra will hold a 12 week formal consultation in December 2012.


How have you ensured standardisation of the IA across four regional projects?

An economist in each regional MCZ project is collecting, analysing and presenting the material for the IA. This material is being drawn together into an assessment of the impacts of the entire suite of sites. The projects are adopting consistent approaches in their analysis. An economist in Natural England is providing the regional MCZ project economists with advice on how to undertake the analysis, and helping them adopt a consistent approach. Defra’s economists are providing feedback on draft material to ensure that the IA meets with Government requirements and are providing quality assurance.


Has the feedback stakeholders have submitted so far been taken into account in the drafting of IA material?

The regional MCZ projects are working to ensure that all relevant and appropriate information is, within the time allowing, included in the IA. The deadline for stakeholders to submit information on the last tranche of material was 5th March, any submissions made after this date will be handled by Defra. 


Will Defra take into account further feedback if submitted after 5th March 2012?

Defra will consider whether there is sufficient time to incorporate the new information into the consultation IA, but if this is not practically possible the information will be reflected in the final IA after the consultation period ends. 



Gathering more evidence for MCZs: Offshore survey work begins

The Science Advisory Panel provided advice to the government in October 2011. They advised that the evidence base underpinning some of the recommendations made by the regional MCZ projects needed strengthening to increase confidence in the presence and extent of features in recommended MCZs and recommended an in depth review of the evidence base for each site recommendation (see below). Recognising the importance of an adequate evidence base, the government has commissioned seabed and habitat surveys of recommended MCZs, which are currently underway.


JNCC is undertaking additional offshore survey work in collaboration with Cefas and the first of these surveys started at the beginning of February aboard the RV Cefas Endeavour. This survey visited the proposed locations of eight recommended MCZs (rMCZ) within three of the regional MCZ project areas; Irish Sea Conservation Zones project area, the Finding Sanctuary project area, and the Balanced Seas project area. The locations surveyed were those of North St Georges Channel, North of Celtic Deep, East of Haig Fras, South of Celtic Deep, East of Celtic Deep, Western Channel, South-East of Falmouth, the Wight-Barfleur extension and Offshore Brighton rMCZs. The planned surveys will be gathering additional data on each of the rMCZs to support their recommendation to the government for designation. The additional data will enable JNCC to better determine and confirm the presence and extent of a feature within an rMCZ. Through this survey work, we may also gather evidence that provides a better indication of the condition of features within the rMCZs.


JNCC has created a new offshore survey blog to keep people up to date with work being carried out to gather data to support Marine Protected Areas. JNCC staff regularly updated the blog throughout the survey sharing information and images of the seabed, wildlife and life on board the Endeavour.


A survey has also been undertaken within the northern area of the Irish Sea Conservation Zones project area at the proposed locations of Slieve Na Griddle, South Rigg and Mud Hole rMCZs; the survey was coordinated by Cefas and carried out by AFBI.  In addition, further survey is also planned for the Net Gain project area; exact details are still to be confirmed but Cefas are leading this survey on behalf of Defra.


The evidence gathered by this survey work is being provided to Natural England and JNCC as it becomes available and will also be considered by Ministers as part of their decision making when determining which MCZs they wish to designate following the Public Consultation in December 2012.



In-depth review of evidence supporting the recommended MCZs

The Ministerial Statement on Marine Conservation Zones (MCZ) published on 15th November 2011 included a commitment to carry out an in-depth review of the evidence base for all the regional MCZ projects’ site recommendations.


To address this commitment and support the work already being taken forward by Natural England and JNCC, Defra has appointed ABP Marine Environmental Research Ltd (ABPmer), supported by the Marine Biological Association of the UK (MBA) and Marine Planning Consultants (MPC), through open competition, to undertake a review of the ecological evidence.


The aim of the project is to build on and extend the evidence-base of the regional MCZ projects, Natural England and JNCC, which will be used to support the designation of MCZs. It will also complement and extend the evidence reviews that have been recently undertaken by the Science Advisory Panel, Natural England and JNCC. The study will deliver a comprehensive review of the evidence collected by the regional MCZ projects and will seek to identify any additional data/information relevant to the 127 recommended MCZs (rMCZ) and Reference Areas (rRA). This will focus particularly on the Ecological Network Guidance features (see JNCC's website for information on the location of the sites and the detailed site reports). The study will also advise on how any new evidence would affect the confidence that may be placed in the evidence used for each feature within each site, based on the Evidence Protocols recently developed by Natural England and JNCC. The work will be undertaken in the period February to June 2012.


The study team is aware that many of you will have already supplied data and information during the data gathering exercises undertaken by the regional MCZ projects up to Autumn 2010. This has been invaluable in assisting with the recommendations made in August 2011. The regional MCZ projects, Defra, Natural England and JNCC are extremely grateful for all your contributions to date. However as part of the work to search for and identify potential additional information sources, particularly any data that have become accessible since Autumn 2010, the study team would like to talk with any organisation or individual that considers that it may have such evidence that would be relevant to any of the 127 rMCZ/rRA sites.


While the study team will be approaching many organisations and individuals, they are happy to be contacted directly, and to receive information via the e-mail address below. Before submitting data, the study team will be available to speak to you. They will clarify any points and the format to provide data in, and can discuss data agreements (to cover the use, storage and distribution of any information provided to the project). Any material submitted will be documented and used to inform the confidence assessment.


If you would like to get in touch with the study team, please contact the Project Manager – Claire Brown – at ABPmer on 023 8071 1864 or by email .


MCZ Designation Timetable

  1. 17th July 2012Natural England and JNCC submit the regional MCZ project recommendations and IA with statutory advice whether the recommendations satisfy the Ecological Network Guidance (ENG) design criteria and principles, highlighting any gaps or duplication.
  2. 2012: Public consultation led by Defra.
  3. 2013: Government designates 1st tranche of MCZs.
  4. Natural England and JNCC will provide more detailed conservation advice for MCZs following designation.  This may be used by Public Authorities to inform their decisions on management measures.


The Red Tape Challenge

The Red Tape Challenge was launched by the Prime Minister on 7 April 2011 to support the government’s goal of reducing regulatory burdens on businesses by reviewing the entire stock of over 21,000 statutory instruments and regulations. The government wants to hear your views on which regulations could be; improved or redesigned; kept or scrapped; or implemented more efficiently.

The Red Tape Challenge is intended to examine a different theme every few weeks until at least August 2012. The Water and Marine Theme started on 17 February and was due to end in March, though this has now been extended to April. Defra are encouraging marine stakeholders to participate so that as many views as possible can be considered. 
More information can be found on Defra's Red Tape Challenge website, or the Cabinet Office Red Tape Challenge website.




We hope that you enjoy this newsletter and find it a useful update on our progress. For this project to be a true success it is vital that we maintain the continued support from as broad a range of stakeholders as possible. So please feel free to share this newsletter with others who use or have an interest in our seas.





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