Cornwall Wildlife Trust has said it is bitterly disappointed by the lack of ambition shown in a long awaited consultation on the next stages of designation of Marine Conservation Zones in English waters.

Defra proposes to designate only 31 of the 127 sites recommended by experts and stakeholders at the end of August last year.

In Cornwall, only 5 of the 13 potential inshore MCZs have been put forward to be designated in 2013; Padstow Bay, Isles of Scilly, Manacles, Upper Fowey and Pont Pill and Whitsand and Looe Bay, and Tamar Estuary.

A controversial zone in the waters off Falmouth was not included in the first phase. 

The 127 recommended Marine Conservation Zones were chosen after two years of hard work by more than one million stakeholders from all sectors of the marine environment and at a cost of over £8.8 million to Government.

Abby Crosby, Marine Conservation Officer for Cornwall Wildlife Trust, says “We are sad to see the loss of some of Cornwall’s most fantastic sites, from Mounts Bay to the Gannel Estuary in Newquay. These areas highlight some of our most special wildlife, from dolphins and basking sharks to crayfish and pink sea fans. These areas will now have a delay in their much needed protection due to decisions made by UK government.”

The trust says Marine Conservation Zones should protect the species and habitats found within them from the most damaging and degrading of activities, whilst mostly allowing sustainable activity to continue.

"The network was designed to ensure that we don’t end up with isolated and vulnerable sites and to ensure that the wide range of marine habitats found in UK seas are protected," said Abby. "Failure to designate all but a very small proportion of sites recommended by these stakeholders will mean that we lack the ecologically coherent network that our seas so badly need to recover." 

Abby continues, “Our surrounding Cornish seas have an astonishingly varied range of submerged landscapes which support wonderful marine life: from cold water coral beds to sponge meadows, canyons and sandbanks. Without these there simply wouldn't be any fish, let alone fantastic jewel anemones, dolphins, brittlestars and all the other wild and extraordinary creatures which are part of a healthy marine ecosystem.”

The Wildlife Trusts will be responding to the Government consultation at the end of January.