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Marine Environment

Volume 686: debated on Wednesday 8 November 2006

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the answer by the Lord Rooker on31 October (HL Deb, col. 153), how his statement that English Nature requested closure because of the pink sea fan is compatible with the indication given to the Minister by English Nature that the purpose of the closure would be to prevent damage from towed fishing gear to seabed habitats and communities.[HL8108]

Like a lot of commentators on this issue, I confused the request for a stop order for specific protection purposes with a possible request to designate the area as a special area for conservation to protect the reefs and wider biodiversity. English Nature did advise that increased scalloping was having a significant impact on important reef features and it recommended the closure of 60 square miles—8 per cent—of Lyme Bay. It also provided advice that the area is the habitatof pink sea fans, ross corals and sunset corals that have been afforded protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, as amended. However, in subsequent discussions, English Nature concentrated on the need to protect pink sea fans and the department took this on board.

After due consideration of all of the evidence produced in relation to this matter, my honourable friend the Minister for Fisheries, Mr Ben Bradshaw, concluded that a zonal solution was the most appropriate in all the circumstances to date. That afforded seven times the protection for pink sea fans that had existed under the previous voluntary agreement and the areas provided protection to over 92 per cent of the known pink sea fan sites.