23 of the 37 proposed Marine Conservations Zones (MCZs), part of the second tranche of marine protection in the UK, have been designated. They join 27 MCZs designated from the first tranche. As of this designation, none of the 50 MCZs have yet to be fully implemented with regulations and a management plan.
Lying between Dover and Folkestone is a diverse seabed structure. Below the white cliffs is an important stretch of marine chalk reefs, interrupted by the Samphire Hoe platform which contains the spoil from the Channel Tunnel. Heading towards Folkestone both on the shore and out to sea, the chalk gives way to soft grey clay and then to the lower greensand that can be seen at Copt Point. Twin-shelled molluscs called piddocks live in the holes they bore in the soft chalk and clay here. Harder rock is rare in the South-East, and the rugged outcropping ridges of Folkestone’s sandstone support many fragile branching sponges, alongside soft corals, fan worms and anemones. Crevices in the rock harbour crustaceans, fish, and even cuttlefish, while the edges are adorned with light-bulb sea squirts or bottlebrush bryozoans.
Marine Conservation Zones protect areas that are important to conserve the diversity of nationally rare, threatened and representative habitats and species. Designation of these zones takes social and economic factors into account, alongside the best available scientific evidence.
This area was designated as part of the second tranche of Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) in the UK designed to address ‘big gaps’ within the network and which are likely to have sufficient supporting evidence. In February 2014 the minister announced the selection of 37 areas for consideration as MCZs in English inshore and English and Welsh offshore waters. Next, work will be done to verify and update the evidence base before considering each candidate site further. Statutory Nature Conservation Bodies (SNCBs) will provide updated advice to Defra on each of the candidate sites which will include an assessment of any newly available ecological evidence. We will additionally be working to verify and wherever possible update the social and economic costs associated with each candidate site.
Ministers will then make final decisions on which sites to propose for designation, taking account of the advice provided by Natural England and JNCC and updated information about the costs and benefits associated with designation. Selection of sites will be consistent with principles used to select the first tranche, i.e. only those sites that achieve an appropriate balance between the likely social and economic costs and conservation benefits, and have an adequate evidence base proposed for designation. No decisions on which sites to include within the second tranche have yet been taken. The remaining Regional MCZ Project recommendations will be considered for inclusion within the third tranche of MCZs.
During the pre-consultation period, Defra and network bodies will look to engage with stakeholders on a local and national level to refine site specific information. The public consultation held in early 2015 will provide an opportunity for all stakeholders to comment on the proposals and provide additional evidence for consideration.