This recommended MCZ includes the Pisces Reef Complex; a potential European Special Area of Conservation (SAC), proposed due to the uniqueness of its habitats and the diversity of its creatures. The Pisces Reef Complex is a series of protruding rocky mounds rising from 15-35 m from the seabed of the Irish Sea. The reefs create a solid habitat with nooks and crannies that allow many species to live within its shelter. Lampshells, sea squirts, sea mats, fern-like hydroids and fish all take advantage of this. The reefs are also a resting and feeding place for wider-ranging species of fish and marine mammals. Within the rocky mounds lies a plateau of mud and sediment; a sheltered area for Dublin Bay prawns, brittle stars and other species to settle in relative safety.
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.