Last week, we held a letter writing coffee break, encouraging staff who wanted to write in response to the government consultation on whether more marine areas should be protected from damage. Fuelled by cake kindly brought in by Bryony and Fiona (the marine officers) and inspired by the talk that Bryony gave, showing us the amazing wildlife hidden under the waves, we wrote to Defra, explaining why we thought the government should designate three areas around Kent as Marine Conservation Zones.
This is such an important time for marine conservation – we take it for granted that there are areas on land that are protected from damage, we have nature reserves, national parks, Sites of Special Scientific Interest and Local Wildlife Sites for example, containing much of our most treasured wildlife and landscapes. But very little of the seascape is protected, and it is vulnerable to all sorts of potentially damaging activities. Sadly, because we can’t see the beautiful landscapes and habitats under the sea, we don’t even know this is happening.
Now we have a chance to change this. New legislation, The Marine Act, passed in 2009, requires the government to designate a network of Marine Conservation Zones. £8 million of public money was spent on a wide-ranging and fair consultation of all sea user groups, who finally agreed on 127 sites, which would have protected good examples of each kind of marine habitat (just as on land, habitats on the sea bed are incredibly varied) and formed an ecological network, allowing species to move between protected sites. Since then, only 27 have actually been designated, and another 23 are being consulted on now. Governments are driven by public opinion, so we need as many people as possible to write in to the consultation and say that they think it is important to protect marine wildlife for the future – for its own sake, for the health of our seas and the economic future of the fishing industry.
For people who are not marine experts (this includes me, and 98% of the staff at Kent Wildlife Trust) writing on the subject can be daunting, which is why we organised a letter writing coffee morning. With Bryony and Fiona on hand to answer questions and provide descriptions of each proposed Marine Conservation Zone, we all felt more confident to put our thoughts on paper. Although you don’t have access to Bryony and Fiona, they have provided this information on our website, and there is a page on The Wildlife Trusts national website to give you tips on writing a response to the consultation. So please, write today. Every individual response counts for so much more than a signature on a campaign; it’s a chance in a lifetime to get marine wildlife protected!