North Devon Biosphere Reserve welcomes two new Marine Conservation Zones

A community group and members of the Marine Biological Association sampling for marine life in the North Devon Biosphere Reserve. Photograph: Dorothy McCormack

Defra has announced that two new Marine Conservation Zones (MCZ) will be designated just off the North Devon Biosphere Reserve’s north coast. These zones will give legal protection to some of the UK’s most diverse and most threatened marine habitats.

The local Marine Working Group, which is comprised of local recreational users, fishermen, divers, scientists and conservationists, has been campaigning for Conservation Zone status for a number of years in order to protect the rare underwater landscape which exists in the area. Using local expertise, this group identified the best possible locations for the Conservation Zone.

The new MCZ designations form part of a wider strategic plan in the North Devon Biosphere Reserve to protect the sea flora and fauna and ensure a sustainable future for the fishermen whose livelihoods depend on these fishing grounds. This goal, one of cooperation and balance between people and the environment, is the founding aim of UNESCO’s Biosphere Reserves.

The pink sea fan, the honeycomb worm and the spiny lobster are among some of the many species that will be protected within the new Marine Conservation Zones.

The announcement of these new protection areas follows on from the designation of 27 MCZs in 2013 – four of which were within Devonian waters – and is the second of three phases being rolled out in the UK in compliance with the Marine and Coastal Access Act.

John Balls, Chair of the North Devon Fishermen’s Association explains that: “[…] We are happy to work with the Biosphere Reserve to secure a sustainable fish stock for the future of the North Devon fishing fleet“.