Sea Fishing - Bait Digging on the Suffolk Stour and Orwell.
Sea angler Mark Sessions advises caution in respect of Marine Conservation Zones in this personal opinion piece.
I have been a sea angler for at least forty five years and am currently secretary for Colchester Sea Angling Club.
Recently I have worked with Suffolk Coasts and Heaths to set up a management plan for the Rivers Stour and Orwell; it’s not perfect but we have tried to make it workable with co-operation from both the professional and non professional bait diggers as well as with the various wildlife bodies and other interested parties.
The result was a voluntary close season for certain types of worm in the winter months to help prevent bird disturbance. However recent news is that *Balanced Seas (the new government advisory body for this area) is now in control and look to be turning most of our coastline into Marine Conservation Zones.
It all sounds well and good but there’s a catch - if you hear that a Reference Area is proposed watch out as this means total exclusion for any activity in that particular area. There is always supposed to be a public consultation period but how can the public object if they do not know anything about it? I attended a meeting in London last year and raised objections (which were minuted) to the two proposed areas in Essex and on the Suffolk Stour. Recently I was contacted again and put my objection forward, only to be told that they had been noted but that the final decision was up to the minister in charge.
I feel Balanced Seas were told they had to have a couple of reference areas and that they have rushed the whole thing through and the outcome for my area does not look good.
*Balanced Seas was a project working in partnership with all those with an interest in the marine environment to identify and recommend Marine Conservation Zones for the inshore and off-shore waters of south-east England.
Marine Conservation Zones are to be set up under the Marine and Coastal Access Act of 2009 and are a new type of Marine Protected Area which, it is claimed, will protect nationally important marine wildlife, habitats, geology and geomorphology.
Stakeholders have made the final recommendations for Marine Conservation Zones in the project area and they were passed to government advisory bodies in September 2011.
The challenge, Balanced Seas state, is to balance the importance of biodiversity conservation with economic activity and working with all those with an interest in the project area is essential for success.