Call to protect sites in Lyme and Seaton

Seaton Beach at low tide. Ref mha 09-16AW 9767. Picture: Alex Walton

Seaton Beach at low tide. Ref mha 09-16AW 9767. Picture: Alex Walton - Credit: Archant

A new report has identified 48 areas at sea that still need protection for their marine habitats and wildlife – including areas in Seaton and Lyme Regis.

The report, called The case for More Marine Conservation Zones, has been published by the Wildlife Trusts and identifies Axe Estuary and Lyme Bay Deeps as areas that need protection. They have been recommended as Marine Conservation Zones (MCZ) - new sites which would complete a network of special places where habitats and wildlife can flourish to safeguard healthy and productive seas for the future.

Axe Estuary has been pinpointed because its saltmarsh and mudflats are important, and it provides a feeding ground for wading birds and nursery areas for fish, such as bass.

Lyme Bay Deeps has been recommended for its importance to marine life. The area is used by white-beaked dolphins for breeding and raising their young.

It also features common dolphins, bottlenose dolphins and harbour porpoise, while basking sharks and minke whales have been recorded.

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All but one of the Devon sites in the report have already been recommended as MCZs in a previous report to the Government following local consultations representing all groups of sea-users in the South West.

The new report is published in advance of the Government’s plans to announce a third and final phase of Marine Conservation Zones - the Government plans to consult the public in 2017 and designate the chosen sites in 2018.

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The report will be presented to the environment minister, Therese Coffey.

Joan Edwards, head of living seas for The Wildlife Trusts, said: “This is an unprecedented opportunity to create an effective network of protected areas at sea. If the Government lives up to its stated commitments, such a network would put us at the forefront of worldwide marine conservation. Designating these 48 wild havens as MCZs would go some way to guaranteeing a future for the diverse natural landscapes that exist beneath the waves off our coast.”

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