Protecting Selsey’s rich marine life

The cuckoo, one of a number of wrecks on the sea bed off of the Selsey coast ENGSUS00120131029120526

The cuckoo, one of a number of wrecks on the sea bed off of the Selsey coast ENGSUS00120131029120526

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Government proposals to form a new Marine Conservation Zone off Selsey are being welcomed by local conservationists.

Selsey Bill and the Hounds, a 13km2 inshore site which hosts an array of flora and fauna and unusual geological features, could be part of a tranche of new conservation zones around the English coast.

Although 50 protected sites have already been created in English waters, a further 50 are being proposed by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) and Natural England.

Their goal is to safeguard a range of nationally-important marine wildlife, habitats, geology and geomorphology and to contribute to a ‘blue belt’ of Marine Protected Areas.

The proposals have been welcomed by leading marine conservation charities, which say they could put the UK at the forefront of worldwide marine conservation.

Henri Brocklebank, Sussex Wildlife Trust’s head of living landscapes and living seas, said: “We need a really comprehensive network to enable marine wildlife to thrive once more.

“We need a sensible number of protected sites, in the best locations and with the right degree of connectivity between areas.

“Selsey Bill and the Hounds is one of these.”

Mr Brocklebank said that Selsey Bill and the Hounds has unique habitats and rich marine life, with short-snouted seahorses, squat lobsters, bottlenose dolphins, three species of tern and seals, among others.

“To have healthy living seas we need to keep it this way into perpetuity.”

If fully established, the Selsey Bill and the Hounds site would have a conservation management plan with permitted and banned seasonal activities, set up via consultations with local stakeholders so as to balance the environment and the economy.

Dale Rodmell, assistant chief executive of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations, recommended the government takes a ‘measured, evidence-based approach’ to the project.

He said MCZs require ‘selective introduction’ in order not to harm marine livelihoods or lead to unintended, potentially counterproductive consequences.

“Approaches that are proportionate or help local marine uses to adapt their activities have to be better than blanket bans on activities that would represent significant rough justice for communities who may have depended on the areas for their livelihood needs for generations.”

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