A beautiful but fragile marine environment off the north Norfolk coast will remain at risk if a government proposal goes ahead, bitterly disappointed wildlife experts have warned.

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Norfolk Wildlife Trust (NWT) says it cannot understand why the Cromer shoal chalk beds are not among sites put forward for special conservation status next year.

The beds, believed to form part of the longest chalk reef in Europe, feature arches and towers, and teem with marine life including a purple sponge, new to science, discovered last year.

They stretch from between Weybourne and Salthouse to just south of Happisburgh.

The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has just launched a consultation on proposals to designate as Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) 31 sites off England and Wales - fewer than a quarter of the 127 recommended after two years of consultation with interested groups.

Brendan Joyce, NWT chief executive, said he was “very disappointed” that the beds were not among the 31: “the reasons given being lack of evidence and possible economic impacts on wind farm cable routes.”

Mr Joyce added: “We are mystified why, when the renewables industry consented to the recommendations for all North Sea MCZs, there will be further delays to designation of the Cromer shoal and other proposed MCZs, whilst economic impacts are considered further.”

Britain’s marine environment was in decline, said Mr Joyce. Basking shark numbers had dropped 95pc and species such as the common skate, once abundant, were now critically endangered. MCZ designation would help the seas recover and flourish.

But Cromer-based fisherman John Lee said he was “very pleased” that the beds were not among the proposed MCZ sites.

Mr Lee, a North Norfolk Fishermen’s Society representative who took part in the initial MCZ consultation process, said there was a long-standing ban on trawling between Blakeney Church and Happisburgh lighthouse.

It was trawling which damaged the sea bed, not the lines, nets, and pots traditionally used by north Norfolk fishermen.

He feared restrictions could be imposed at the time of designation, or in future, which could severely affect fishermen’s livelihoods.

● Anyone interested in supporting wildlife trusts’ bid to have sites designated as MCZs can visit www.wildlifetrusts.org/MCZfriends

7 comments

  • Daisy Roots. Agree with every word. Well said. I'd just add apart from trying to feather their nests, they are trying for a nice little earner and tax funded pension for doing sweet fanny adams

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    weaversway

    Sunday, December 16, 2012

  • To Betty Swallocks there are crooks in all walks of life and the Env Scientists I know wish that they were devious enough to pull off some of the tricks their contemparies manage to undertake. Some do this from selfish reward others are just too ignorant to think about the consequences of their blind adhereance to rules and regulations. Otherwise I agree with you.

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    George Ezekial

    Monday, December 17, 2012

  • I agree that it is right that the Blakeney reference area was dropped as it was clearly a bonkers idea in the first place. However it was the reference areas that were designed to severely limit human activities, not the MCZs. In the case of chalk reef, it is correct to say that it has survived alongside traditional fishing techniques but look at one of the reasons it was dropped - economic impacts on offshore windfarm cabling routes. Essentially Defra is saying offshore windfarm cable routes are more important than protecting an internationally significant habitat. These habitats are important refuges for marine life and surely their protection will support the fishing industry by helping protect stocks. I'm sure that the impacts of offshore windfarms will have a bigger impact on our longshore economy than MCZs. Unfortunately our fishing industry repeatedly fails to see the bigger picture. As for Weaversway comments, the people I know who work for conservation organisations are dedicated, committed people who truly believe in protecting the world we live in. They're not interested in 'feathering their own nests' - they don't get paid enough!

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    Betty Swallocks

    Monday, December 17, 2012

  • Knock me down with a feather. The NWT are actually doing something. It's just a shame it's in the sea and not on the land where they seem to do naff all.

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    Kempster

    Tuesday, December 18, 2012

  • It was to be expected by this minority coalition. I expect that there are commercial interests as yet not talked about, coal-gas energy schemes, fracking, you name it, as long as its in the hand of the establishment, it will happen. I do not agree with this decision, as Cromers commercial fishing situation is already restricted, with a dire future, we have to look after the marine environment that feeds us and others.

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    ingo wagenknecht

    Monday, December 17, 2012

  • This and the decision about Blakeney is a bit of common sense. The coast has been doing OK with the measures that are in place and the exclusion zones were going to affect the traditional fishing and other practices along the coast. It seemed pretty obvious from the recent fuss being made about the reef-which Percy Trett has been telling us about for donkeys years- that there were naturalists, scientists and makers of careers in the environmental agencies who had suddenly twigged it is there and were pushing this scheme as hard as they could manage and possibly not for the best reasons.And were prepared, in the case of the exclusion zones, to ride roughshod over local people to get themselves a nice little niche managing the zones, poking about and writing papers etc. Too many people working in the environment and conservation sectors who try on the one hand to teach grandmothers to suck eggs and on the other sometimes show breathtaking stupidity and blatant feathering of own nests.

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    Daisy Roots

    Sunday, December 16, 2012

  • Daisy Roots. Agree with every word. Well said. I'd just add apart from trying to feather their nests, they are trying for a nice little earner and tax funded pension for doing sweet fanny adams

    Report this comment

    weaversway

    Sunday, December 16, 2012

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