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7 December 2010

Latest Irish Sea zones report released

The latest thinking on potential new conservation areas in the Irish Sea is outlined in our second progress report.

Comments on the potential zones are being invited and will be considered as the project continues to refine its proposals.

The report shows the current thinking of the project’s Regional Stakeholder Group, a group of around 40 people drawn from a diverse range of interests in the Irish Sea. It identifies the sizes, shapes and locations of ten possible new Marine Conservation Zones including, for the first time, zones in inshore waters of the Irish Sea project area, as well as offshore.

However, the second progress report is only a snapshot of the work so far. It does not contain concrete recommendations for the locations of Marine Conservation Zones in the Irish Sea, and the potential zones shown in the report are liable to change at later stages in the project.

Greg Whitfield, project manager at Irish Sea Conservation Zones, said: “This is a real milestone for the project, with potential Marine Conservation Zones identified in both inshore and offshore waters.

“I want to thank the regional stakeholder group for all their hard work over the last year, as well as the many people who have taken the time to fill out our questionnaires and feedback forms.

"It is now really important that people take a look at the potential zones and give us their feedback on them. The better the information we have, the better the Marine Conservation Zones that are recommended by the regional stakeholder group will be.”

The aim is for Marine Conservation Zones to have the least impact possible on people’s activities, but some restrictions will apply as the zones must meet guidelines for protecting species and habitats.

The progress report is the second of three that will be released before the stakeholder group finalises its recommendations. The reports are delivered to the Science Advisory Panel - an independent body comprised of expert scientists whose main role is to evaluate the potential Marine Conservation Zones against ecological criteria.

The Regional Stakeholder Group’s third progress report will be available in late February next year. Its final recommendations will then be presented to the government in June next year. A formal public consultation on the proposed MCZs will follow in late 2011 and early 2012.

The Second Progress Report and feedback forms can be downloaded from www.irishseaconservation.org.uk/progress-reports or requested by calling 01925 813 200.