#MarineWildlife - Fears among conservation groups that the UK would enact just a quarter of the proposed Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) in British waters have been realised with the news that just 31 out of a potential 127 sites will be designated as protected by the end of 2013.
The original proposals, as reported last year on Afloat.ie, cover the waters around the English and Welsh coastlines - of which only 1% is currently protected - recommending a variety of zones that offer different levels of protection for marine wildlife and plantlife, allowing flexibility for fishing and other activities.
A government decision on the conservation areas was already postponed in November last year after pressure from coastlines users.
But as the Guardian reports, Westminster has now been accused of a "lack of ambition" by the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) over the announcement on Thursday 13 December, which the charity says flies in the face of the government's own advisers who have recommended a 'coherent network' of sites around Britain, including the immediate designation for 59 sites regarded as 'highly threatened'.
"We cannot delay protection," said Jean-Luc Solandt of MCS. "We wouldn't stand by and let wildflower meadows and ancient forests be dug up and cleared, and yet heavy fishing gear is dragged across all kinds of habitats, destroying large swaths of the seabed with very little control."
The World Wide Find for Nature (WWF) added to the chorus of disapproval, saying the decision by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) "falls woefully short of what is needed to protect the marine environment".
Ali Champion of WWF UK said: “It’s disappointing and shows a complete lack of commitment to the protection of our seas in a coherent way."
Of the four zones recommended for the Irish Sea area, only one - at Fylde Offshore, off Lancashire - has been chosen by Defra for protection. But as the Blackpool Gazette reports, local campaigners say they will vow to continue the fight to 'save our seas'.