New tougher marine protection rules considered for areas off Northumberland coast
Areas off the Northumberland coast could be considered for a higher level of marine protection.
In June, the Benyon review Into Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) was published, with a headline recommendation that they should be introduced.
This is because 40% of England’s seas are Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), but the Government’s assessment shows that the environment is not in a healthy state.
The review recommends that they ‘should be defined as areas of the sea that allow the protection and recovery of marine ecosystems’ and ‘prohibit extractive, destructive and depositional uses and allow only non‑damaging levels of other activities’.
An update to the latest quarterly meeting of the Northumberland Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (NIFCA) noted that the recommendations are not yet Defra policy, but that an indication of the Government’s intentions ‘is thought likely to be by the autumn’.
The NIFCA report further explained that it had been envisaged when the review was established that a number of pilot HPMAs would be recommended, but that did not happen due to Covid-19 restrictions.
However, the review summary does state that its call for evidence provided a number of areas that respondents recommended as suitable for HPMAs, and the Government ‘should use this as a starting point for identifying pilot HPMAs’.
While not endorsed by the panel, this list includes the Farne islands and Northumbria coast, the Farnes East MCZ (marine conservation zone), the North East of Farnes Deep MCZ, and the Swallow Sand MCZ, approximately 100km offshore from Northumberland.