A Cornish charity is backing government recommendations for protecting the marine environment.

The Benyon review of Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) is published by Defra today, World Oceans Day. 

Cornwall Wildlife Trust backs its recommendations that HPMAs should be an essential part of the UK network for protection and recovery of the marine environment, and the government should introduce HPMAs within existing protected areas.

Ruth Williams, marine conservation manager for Cornwall Wildlife Trust said: "Cornwall has 22 Marine Conservation Zones and is hugely rich in marine wildlife but this wildlife needs refuge and space to recover. 

"We know from experience that when certain damaging activities cease, recovery in the marine environment can happen, and sometimes much sooner than scientists thought possible. 

"Beautiful sunset cup corals can blossom and pink sea fans regrow on our reefs. 

"In Cornwall the sea is a hugely valuable asset for both our enjoyment and economy. We need to see it properly protected and HPMAs will help to achieve that.”
Falmouth Packet: Grey seal. Picture: Alexander Mustard/ 2020 VisionGrey seal. Picture: Alexander Mustard/ 2020 Vision

The Wildlife Trusts believe that HPMAs should be designated in each regional sea, in both inshore and offshore English waters, encompassing a range of habitats so that experts can study how recovery works in different ecosystems. 

In October 2019 The Wildlife Trusts, including Cornwall Wildlife Trust, submitted evidence to the panel saying:

• A selection of well monitored HPMAs that are sufficient in size and number are needed to understand what happens when damaging activities are removed and how our seas can recover. In turn this will help us determine appropriate management for the rest of the Marine Protected Area (MPA) network

• HPMAs provide a higher level of protection than other types of MPAs - this means marine areas will be able to return to as natural a state as possible with more marine wildlife

• HPMAs act as a natural solution to climate change in the form of carbon capture, whilst at the same time helping to conserve the animals and plants living there

• HPMAs have the potential to generate direct benefits through increased tourism and recreational activities while indirect benefits will improve people's wellbeing for decades

Falmouth Packet: Male cuttlefish. Picture: Alexander Mustard/ 2020 VisionMale cuttlefish. Picture: Alexander Mustard/ 2020 Vision

Joan Edwards, director of marine conservation at The Wildlife Trusts said: “Our seas are in an impoverished state and it’s hard for our generation to comprehend how abundant our waters once were. 

"Cod were once as long and wide as humans are tall, and whales, dolphins and basking sharks were many times more common than they are today. 

"We need to let the sea show us what it’s capable of. 

"Today’s publication proposes a vital way of achieving marine recovery. 

“Existing Marine Protected Areas are limited in their ability to restore habitats and wildlife because their remit to protect nature only extends as far as maintaining the status quo.

"In these areas only some of the most damaging activities are prevented and even then, only in some locations.

“In Highly Protected Marine Areas, on the other hand, all damaging activities including fishing, dredging, construction and sea angling would be banned. This new type of designation means that nature could properly recover. 

"HPMAs could be monitored to allow us to understand what a thriving seabed and restored marine life really means. They could set a bar against which other sorts of protected areas could be measured.”