PICTURE: THE UNDER-SEA WORLD OFF CROMER. Norfolk Wildlife Trust launches Friends of Marine Conservation Zones campaign

Wildlife experts have today launched a campaign aimed at putting pressure on the government to protect important and threatened English and Welsh under-sea areas, including three off Norfolk.

And Norfolk Wildlife Trust (NWT) is backing the bid for 127 Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) around the coast to be officially designated.

Trust chiefs say the zones were recommended last year and the government was due to designate them this year, but has stalled the process until 2013, citing lack of evidence.

NWT chief executive Brendan Joyce said: 'We believe some of the recommended MCZs have already been damaged since being recommended. Whilst the government treads water, wildlife-rich areas in our oceans continue to suffer degradation.'

The zones include the Glaven Reedbed, in NWT's Cley Nature Reserve, Seahenge Peat and Clay, part of NWT's Holme Dune reserve, and the reef off Cromer, which is likely to be the largest chalk reef in Europe.

NWT has just launched a Friends of Marine Conservation Zones, linked to a new on-line resource providing details of locations, species and habitats for all 127 recommended MCZs.

Mr Joyce said he hoped, once people used the resource and realised what lay under their local seas, they would become as passionate about them as they were about land nature reserves. It was vital that the government heard independent voices and understood that each recommended site had public support.

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Sir David Attenborough, vice president of The Wildlife Trusts, said nearly a century ago some of the country's finest land wildlife sites were identified, using the best evidence available. The MCZs had been recommended using much more science.

He added: 'I urge the government to designate the full list of 127 sites now, for day by day the wildlife in these sites is being destroyed and damaged. Time is running out for us to save our fragile seas.'

? Visit www.wildlifetrusts.org/MCZfriends for more information.

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