Wildlife charity Cornwall Wildlife Trust has launched a new campaign to fight for the "proper protection of our seas", and is asking peple to become ‘Friends of Marine Conservation Zones’.
The charity says that Cornwall’s coastline is host to many thousands of species including intricate corals, whales and dolphins, basking sharks, seals, and a myriad fascinating fish, crustaceans and molluscs and that proper protection is needed.
A spokesman said: "These creatures live, feed and shelter in many different habitats under the waves. Sea caves and reefs support sponges, sea squirts and corals, as well as crabs, lobsters and fish - sandbanks and seagrass meadows are nurseries for fish and support sand eels which, in turn, are food for seabirds and seals.
"All remain at risk, until areas which offer effective protection are established. With government commitments for protecting the sea yet to be fully met, urgent action is still needed to turn our over-fished, over-exploited, and currently under-protected waters back into a healthy and sustainable environment.
"The Trust who protect Cornwall’s wildlife and wild places is asking the public to show support by signing up to become a Friend of Marine Conservation Zones. Signing up is easy, either by following the link www.wildlifetrusts.org/MCZfriends or coming to see us at a marine event this summer.
The friends group and Cornwall Wildlife Trust, will be urging the government to keep focused on setting up 37 new Marine Conservation Zones in English seas, where underwater habitats are protected from damaging activities, such as scallop dredging and trawling. They will also help to defend and champion a wider network of protected areas around the UK’s coast.
Five inshore Marine Conservation Zones were designated in Cornwall waters last year, located in Whitsands Bay and Looe, Padstow Bay and surrounds, Upper Fowey and Pont Pill, and the Manacles, but the charity says more are needed to create a full network which works for wildlife.
Under current proposals up to four new inshore ‘zones’ could be established around Cornwall in 2015 if enough people show support for them, including Mount’s Bay, Land’s End, Newquay and the Gannel, and Tintagel to Hartland Point.
People who sign up to be a Friend of Marine Conservation Zones can opt to ‘befriend’ one or all of the above proposed areas, similar to becoming ‘Friends’ of local parks, historic buildings and community projects.
All ‘Friends’ will receive regular updates from The Wildlife Trusts on the campaign, with opportunities to get involved and ways to help, such as writing to local MPs and the Prime Minister to press the need for protection and, ultimately, to respond to the public consultation, expected in early 2015.
Abby Crosby, marine conservation officer at Cornwall Wildlife Trust says, ‘Many of us are passionate about our local wildlife hotspots on land, and vocal about protecting them. Although we don’t often see what’s living below the surface of the sea, we do know what it provides for us and we understand what it means to communities.
"Local parks, historic buildings and wild places have ‘friends of’ groups which help to look after them and so we’re doing the same for the special places in our seas’. A
"With little protection for our seas, we need people to work with us to ensure governments around the UK fulfil their commitments and designate areas for protection. Public support for this is essential and will help to ensure that it happens.
"World Ocean’s Day is a good time to reflect on the damage years of over-exploitation and neglect of our seas has had on UK marine life. It needs more protection and we are sure people across the country who cherish our native sea life, and understand the threats it faces, will get involved. Together we can ensure our seas and their wildlife are afforded proper protection for everyone to enjoy in the future."
For more information on Marine Conservation Zones and the ‘Friends’ campaign, see www.cornwallwildlifetrust.org.uk/mczs. To sign up direct to become a ‘Friend’ please visit www.wildlifetrusts.org/MCZfriends.