Marine act a good start says RSPCA

The Marine and Coastal Access Bill will receive royal assent tomorrow (November 11) creating the world's only legislation protecting British seafronts.

The secretary of state for the environment, food and rural affairs, Hilary Benn, will visit Shoreham Harbour tomorrow to mark the assent of the bill which creates the Marine and Coastal Access Act.

Mr Benn is due to mark the day by meeting local groups and confirming the South Downs as England’s ninth National Park.

The new 632 square mile protected area, home to an estimated 120,000 people, will stretch from Beachy Head in East Sussex to the edge of Winchester in Hampshire.

However, Dr Sharon Thompson, senior marine policy officer with the RSPB, while welcoming the act said the Government needed to use it properly.

She said: “The creation of a Marine and Coastal Access Act is a watershed for marine conservation.

“But, for the act to be meaningful and help safeguard vulnerable marine species, from corals to whales, the Government must use these new powers to designate sites otherwise the legislation will be as toothless as a sea squirt!”

The RSPB has identified 21 sites it says are of ‘national importance’ for seabirds in English waters, creating a series of potential ‘early wins’ for the UK Government.

The sites, ranging from Northumberland to Cornwall, would provide protection for nationally-important populations of 12 species of seabird.

The Government has so far earmarked four regional projects and started working with local groups and businesses to identify which areas will be designated as conservation zones.

Luke Walsh

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