Pace of moves to protect sea off Cromer is too slow, say MPs

Mary Kemp making crab dishes with Elliott Bloomfield, chef at The Rocket House Cafe, Cromer and crab

Mary Kemp making crab dishes with Elliott Bloomfield, chef at The Rocket House Cafe, Cromer and crab fisherman John Lee.PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Controversial plans to bring in new measures to protect the coast off Cromer, have been too slow, MPs have warned.

An Environment Audit Committee report has said the Government has failed to get coastal communities and fishermen on-board with its plans to create 127 Marine Conservation Zones around the UK.

The plan was launched four years ago, yet the green light has not yet been given to any zones in Norfolk or Suffolk, although its Cromer shoal chalk beds are currently being weighed up by Defra.

But local groups, including fishermen, have major concerns about the plans. John Lee, an eighth generation fisherman in Cromer, is concerned about the impact restrictions on fishing could have on his livelihood, claiming the designation is not needed.

'We have been doing this for several hundred years. In is in our interest to preserve the fish stocks because we want to continue to do this,' he added.

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But David North, head of people and wildlife at Norfolk Wildlife Trust said it was disappointed at the slow pace of designations.

'We believe that protection of this special habitat, which may be the longest chalk reef in Europe, can create a win, win, win situation: a high, quality protected chalk reef can help ensure a sustainable future for crab and lobster potting; protect the area's unique biodiversity; and help local tourism by demonstrating that it's not only the terrestrial coastal habitats in North Norfolk which are beautiful and internationally important.'

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To ensure this protection, restrictions may apply to some activities in marine protected areas eg fisheries

Chair of the Committee, Joan Walley MP, said: 'The Government must stop trying to water down its pledge to protect our seas and move much more quickly to establish further protection zones and ensure they can be enforced.'

She also questioned if the Marine Management Organisation would have the resources to police the zones.

She added: 'When a rare species or biodiverse stretch of seabed is destroyed, it may be lost for ever.'

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