The area is a national stronghold of the peacock’s tail seaweed and is one of only two recommended MCZ sites in the southeast where both species of native seahorse have been recorded. The kaleidoscope stalked jellyfish has also been found here: one of only two locations in the region which supports this beautiful and delicate species. Bembridge is the only known regional location of maerl. This fragile, calcareous, red seaweed resembles a knotted mass of twigs and provides lots of shelter for other species. Naturally exposed rocky reef hosts assemblages of sponges, anemones and corals. Mud dominates in the north and is home to one of the very few European species of spoon worms. These bizarre creatures have brains in their long tongues, which extend out of their burrows in search of food.
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.