WDC has reacted with dismay and disappointment at the news that the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has excluded whales, dolphins and porpoises from those species that will be protected by a second tranche of Marine Conservation Zones (MCZ) in the seas around England’s coastline.
The announcement by Defra today is in contrast to Scotland and Wales, both of which already have similar such marine protected areas (or MPAs) for bottlenose dolphins, and Scotland has also proposed MPAs for Risso’s dolphins, minke whales and basking sharks.
Back in In November 2013, Defra expanded the Marine Protected Areas network through the designation of the first tranche of Marine Conservation Zones. 27 MCZs were designated which offer protection to the nationally representative and nationally rare and threatened habitats and species within our seas. Sadly, none included whales, dolphins or porpoises.
WDC believes that these zones and MPAs are both tools that should be used together to provide protection to mobile species, including whales, dolphins and porpoises, where they return to important habitats to feed, breed or to raise young.
The European Commission has repeatedly urged the UK government to designate a special kind of MPA called Special Areas of Conservation for harbour porpoises, and has said that it may refer the case to the EU Court of Justice if the UK doesn’t respond appropriately.
Therefore, WDC believes that the UK needs to urgently reconsider it’s policies towards mobile marine species so that it is in line with our international commitments, and the rest of the world.
WDC has previously written to Defra to ask them to include common dolphins in East of Celtic Deep MCZ, Celtic Deep MCZ – neither of these sites that have made it into Tranche 2. We also asked them to include common dolphins in the Western Channel MCZ, harbour porpoise within Bideford to Foreland MCZ, and white-beaked dolphins within Farnes East MCZ. These sites are being proposed in Tranche 2.