East Sussex coastline to be protected as part of new ‘Blue Belt’

L-R: Peter Richardson (Marine Conservation Society), Tim MacPherson (director of Angling Trust), Steve Hanks (local angler), Huw Merriman MP and Alice Tebb (Marine Conservation Society).
L-R: Peter Richardson (Marine Conservation Society), Tim MacPherson (director of Angling Trust), Steve Hanks (local angler), Huw Merriman MP and Alice Tebb (Marine Conservation Society).

Huw Merriman MP welcomed news that, following nearly two years of his campaigning, a new Marine Conservation Zone called Beachy Head East has been officially announced by the Government.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove last week announced the creation of 41 new Marine Conservation Zones, marking the most significant expansion of England’s ‘Blue Belt’ of protected areas to date.

Stretching from Cornwall to Northumberland and including East Sussex, the new protections safeguard 12,000 square kilometres of marine habitat, an area almost eight times the size of Greater London.

The Bexhill and Battle MP said: “Today’s announcement of the new Beachy Head East Marine Conservation Zone is really positive news for our area and will bring great benefits to our local beaches, marine life and our visitor economy. I have been lobbying the government to create the Beachy Head East Conservation Zone since 2017 along with the excellent Marine Conservation Society, and our local angling community. I am therefore delighted the precious and unique marine life off our local beaches will now be protected.”

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The Marine Conservation Zone for Beachy Head East is an area characterised by a sandstone and chalk reef system which is home to a wealth of marine wildlife. There are also blue mussel beds, including the ‘Bexhill Mussel Garden’ which is a fragile living reef and host to many marine species.

Alice Tebb from the Marine Conservation Society, who has worked extensively in the local area, said: “I am delighted that Beachy Head East is now a Marine Conservation Zone. Along with Huw Merriman MP, over 1,000 local people supported our campaign for this last year, and this announcement is a testament to them. Now we need to get on and make sure that the site is well managed so that the precious marine wildlife can thrive along with our local community.”

The announcement was also welcomed by the Sussex Wildlife Trust.

Sarah Ward, marine officer at Sussex Wildlife Trust, said: “We now have nine MCZs off the Sussex coast, meaning that the wonderful marine life around our local shoreline and out to sea will be better protected and can be allowed to recover.

“The Wildlife Trusts nationally have been calling for the government to give real protection to a network of diverse sea-bed landscapes since 2009. Now we need to see good management of these special places to stop damaging activities such as beam-trawling or dredging for scallops which harm fragile marine wildlife.”

Beachy Head East was one of three new MCZs announced for Sussex. The other two are Selsey Bill and the Hounds, and Inner Bank, off the coast near Rye and Hastings.

For more details, see http://www.beachyheadeast.org/.