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Marine Conservation Zones

Volume 502: debated on Thursday 10 December 2009

8. When his Department plans to establish marine conservation zones; and if he will make a statement. (305581)

The first marine conservation zones will be established on 12 January 2010, when the two existing marine nature reserves around Lundy and Skomer automatically become MCZs. Advice on potential sites from Natural England and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee is due by autumn 2011. The Secretary of State will then consult on and designate sites in 2012. MCZs, together with other types of sites, will form an ecologically coherent network of marine protected areas.

I welcome the creation of MCZs, with their rounded approach to conservation and the protection of marine life and wildlife. Can the Minister tell me whether the Dee estuary, which is already an important environmental site and a special area of conservation, will be a prime site to be designated?

I am sure that my hon. Friend will join me in welcoming the fact that, today, part of the Dee estuary—one of six sites of community importance in the UK—will be formally designated as a special area of conservation by the Secretary of State. I have written to other hon. Members who will have designations in their areas announced today. The Irish sea conservation zones regional project will consider the conservation potential of various parts of its area, including the River Dee. If there are parts of the Dee that have conservation potential—we already know from designations that there are—that are not already protected by other means, then they will indeed be considered.