England Protects Marine Life With 'Blue Belt' Expansion

This is a photo of Birling Gap over Beachy Head West. Beachy Head West was just one of the first 27 Marine Conservation Zones designated in 2013.   ( Natural England | UK Government )

England just made another significant move to help protect marine life. In its widest expansion yet, 41 more locations were added to England’s "Blue Belt."

‘Blue Belt’ Expansion

On May 31, England’s Environment Secretary Michael Gove announced 41 new Marine Conservation Zones (MCZ) from Cornwall to Northumberland. This means that about 4,633 square miles (12,000 square kilometers) of marine habitat are now protected. That is an area that is nearly eight times the size of Greater London.

The move is in line with the government’s commitment to creating a “Blue Belt” of marine protection to protect its own coast as well as overseas territories. Furthermore, it helps build on Britain's 25 Year Environment Plan, which sets out to improve the environment within a generation. With the current expansion, creatures such as the stalked jellyfish and short-snouted seahorse, and habitats such as blue mussel beds will benefit from the protection.

Marine Conservation Zones

To date, there are now 91 MCZs in England waters, the first 27 of which were announced back in 2013. In 2016, 23 more were announced, and the most recent addition of 41 more locations marks the most significant expansion.

In total, the United Kingdom now has 355 different types of Marine Protected Areas, covering about 220,000 square kilometers, or nearly double the size of England. In fact, Gove said that England is actually leading the world by protecting 30 percent of the planet’s oceans, but he also noted that there is still more that can be done for future generations.

“Today really does mark a major step forward for the conservation of our precious marine environment, but there is still much to be done, including putting in place more of the good practices that we know are needed to secure the long-term health of our seas and their wildlife,” said the Chair of Natural England, Tony Juniper.

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