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Marine Environment

Volume 405: debated on Monday 12 May 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what recent discussions he has had with (a) his counterparts in Europe, (b) his counterparts in other maritime nations and (c) the International Maritime Organisation regarding the creation of internationally recognised marine environment high risk areas. [111426]

I have had no discussions of the sort described concerning marine environmental high risk areas (MEHRAs). MEHRAs are a domestic UK initiative. However, there is an international designation entitled Particularly Sensitive Sea Area (PSSA), which represents the very highest level of environmental protection available through the International Maritime Organisation (IMO). A proposal for a PSSA in western European waters was discussed at the Transport Council in March, and my Department has played an active role in developing that proposal in co-operation with French, Spanish, Irish, Portuguese and Belgian colleagues. The six countries joint proposal for a PSSA stretching from the Shetland Islands in the north to the coast of Portugal in the south, and including the English Channel, was submitted to the IMO last month and will be considered by the IMOs Marine Environment Protection Committee in July.

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what targets he has set for the creation of marine environment high risk areas in waters within UK jurisdiction. [111427]

In his report Safer Ships, Cleaner Seas, which first recommended the identification of marine environmental high risk areas (MEHRAs), Lord Donaldson proposed that not more than about a tenth of the UK coastline should qualify. That is the target I have set.

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport pursuant to his answer of 16 December 2002, Official Report, column 580W, to the hon. Member for Reading, East (Jane Griffiths), what progress his Department is making towards the publishing of the consultation document on marine environment high risk areas. [111560]

The Government remain strongly committed to marine environmental high risk areas (MEHRAs). An interdepartmental group, including representatives of Defra, DTI and my own Department (including its Maritime and Coastguard Agency), together with the devolved Administrations, the country agencies for nature conservation and the UK Hydrographic Office, has been working to produce a report, which will announce the areas which have been identified as MEHRAs and which will consult on the protective measures proposed to protect these locations.We have completed traffic surveys of a number of the identified locations on the east and west coasts of the UK, and we are developing proposals on ship routeing measures to take to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO). An outline of the results of the traffic surveys and the proposed routeing measures will be included in the report.However, this is a substantial task and an appreciable amount of work has still to be done in developing the proposed protective measures. In the circumstances, I now expect the report to be issued this autumn.