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A Vision for the Manx Marine Environment: Department Launches a New Project to Select a Marine Nature Reserve 12 December 2008

The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry would like your input into an exciting new project to ensure that we protect special marine life in Manx waters for future generations. The Manx Marine Nature Reserve Project will look at the best way to protect a special area of Manx seas while at the same time minimising impact on users of the sea and bringing benefits to coastal communities.

Marine Nature Reserves are a form of Marine Protected Area, an area of the sea protected from some activities to allow marine life to thrive. Under Manx law Marine Nature Reserves can be established to protect special marine animals or plants. There are currently no Marine Nature Reserves around the Isle of Man, so although we have some very special marine plants and animals we are not currently protecting them in this way.

The Project will bring together marine interest groups to work together with the Department to identify an appropriate area for a Marine Nature Reserve which meets scientific criteria but is also acceptable to those who use the sea. The aim is to select a site and designate it as a Marine Nature Reserve by 2011. During the process, other possible sites may be identified that could be designated in the future to form a network of protected areas throughout Manx waters.

Last month the Wildlife and Conservation Division of DAFF held a workshop for representatives of users of the sea and other marine interest groups to gather initial views and to identify issues to address as the project develops.

The workshop was opened by Phil Gawne MHK, Minister for DAFF and was a great success with over 70 participants. The workshop used a novel approach to involving participants in activities. The whole day was structured to ensure that everyone’s voice was heard and their opinions recorded in full. Participants included fishermen, marine scientists, anglers, boat operators, conservationists, watersports enthusiasts, politicians and government officers with responsibilities for marine management.

DAFF would like to emphasise that this is just one event in a whole series of opportunities planned to ensure that the whole marine community are fully involved in the development of an effective Marine Nature Reserve.

DAFF has had some very positive feedback from the event already with one participant commenting: ‘Well done on creating such a great start to the Marine Nature Reserve debate - without doubt the best and most productive meeting of views that we could have had.’

DAFF Minister Phil Gawne said: ‘My Department is responsible for marine conservation and also sustainable fisheries management in Manx waters. Working together with the fishing industry, we have already made great progress in effective management of the scallop fishery through the fisheries closed areas in Douglas and Port Erin. We now need to work closely with marine stakeholders to ensure that we are also protecting areas of the sea that are important for marine biodiversity. Friday’s workshop demonstrated the knowledge and enthusiasm of people involved in marine industries and interest groups and marked the start of a new level of collaborative working in the marine sector.’

If you would like to be involved in future events please contact Dr Fiona Gell, Wildlife and Conservation Division on 843109 or email fiona.gell@gov.im for more details.

Notes for editors

1. There are now thought to be at least 4435 formally designated Marine Protected Areas around the world. Research from many of these sites has demonstrated diverse benefits, from protecting special marine habitats and species, through to wider community benefits such as tourism, recreation and educational opportunities.

2. There are a number of international and regional conventions that support the designation of Marine Protected Areas. The OSPAR Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North East Atlantic has a target for a network of Marine Protected Areas by 2012. The Isle of Man is signed up to this convention.

3. The Port Erin Closed Area has been closed to scallop fishing since 1990 and has demonstrated a build up of scallops within the area which is likely to be benefiting adjacent fishing grounds through the production of young scallops which can settle outside the area. The Manx scallop fishing industry worked with DAFF to establish a second Fisheries Closed Area in Douglas Bay earlier this year. These are great achievements and a tribute to the efforts the Manx fishing industry are making to develop a more sustainable fishery for the future. Protecting these sites from scallop dredging has demonstrated conservation benefits and the Port Erin Closed Area is used internationally as an example of an effective Marine Protected Area.

4. In the UK and Ireland Marine Nature Reserves have been used alongside Marine Special Areas of Conservation to protect special marine areas. The Marine Bill which is currently being developed in the UK will protect the sea in a new way, using Marine Conservation Zones which will be highly protected from activities that affect sensitive marine habitats and species.

5. There was an attempt to designate the Calf of Man as a Marine Nature Reserve in 1992 but this was not successful and so there are no Marine Nature Reserves designated in Manx waters, even though we have had the necessary laws since 1990.

6. DAFF will make important decisions about where the Marine Nature Reserve will be and how it will be managed in close collaboration with users of the sea and other stakeholders. There is a very real opportunity to get involved and influence how this project develops.

7. The event was run with the assistance of Dialogue Matters, a company who specialise in open, transparent and participatory decision-making and information gathering. Twelve local volunteers were trained in techniques to encourage full participation and acted as very effective co-ordinators of group work and discussion sessions.

8. The full report on the event will be available on the Government website in early January.

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