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National protection for three areas off the Hampshire and Isle of Wight coast

PUBLISHED: 16:33 22 March 2016 | UPDATED: 16:33 22 March 2016

Dead Man's Fingers by James Lynott (creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0) via flic.kr/p/ytZ8oQ

Dead Man's Fingers by James Lynott (creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0) via flic.kr/p/ytZ8oQ

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Three areas off the coast of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight are set to get national protection for the special wildlife they support thanks to campaigning by the Wildlife Trusts and their supporters says Tim Ferrero from HIWWT

These three new Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) – The Needles, Utopia, and Offshore Overfalls - include a range of spectacular underwater landscapes, including chalk reefs, rocky sponge gardens and submerged river valleys. These habitats support wildlife such as the tope shark, undulate rays and reef communities of corals, sponges and anemones – some species of which haven’t yet been identified.

They’re also home to internationally important seagrass beds – British populations of which were recently found to be in a ‘perilous state’. Seagrass provides a great nursery habitat for young fish - including those we eat - so these beds are good news for fish stocks. It is also the only true flowering plant in the sea, and it absorbs harmful nutrients. Like other plants, it produces oxygen and is very efficient at storing carbon dioxide and limiting the impacts of climate change.

The damage wildlife in our oceans has suffered over the years means the status quo just isn’t enough – nature needs space and time to recover from pollution, climate change and harmful activities like mooring boats and dredging.

However, designating these three new MCZs is just the first step in the process, and the hard work begins here. The next steps will be local management plans for the site being developed, agreed and implemented. We all need to work together – conservation organisations, local authorities and agencies, and communities - to find sustainable ways of using our seas so that wildlife can recover from damaging activity, and support us into the future.

These three sites are also important parts of a developing network of marine protected areas around the UK and take us a small but significant step towards what our ocean wildlife really needs – an international network of protected areas.

As well as working to develop plans for these three zones, we’re looking to the third and final tranche of sites being considered by the government. We hope these will include three more on the Isle Wight – Bembridge, Norris to Rude and Yarmouth to Cowes – and Fareham Creek in Hampshire.

But for now we have important and exciting work to do to get proper management in place for the wildlife in our local seas.

Find out more about what you can do to help protect our Marine Conservation Zones and hear about the latest news and reports at www.hiwwt.org.uk/Friends-of-Marine-Conservation-Zones

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