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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 August 2006, 11:51 GMT 12:51 UK
Steps to save marine environment
Lundy Island
The Lundy no-take zone was established in 2003
Measures to protect the South West's marine environment have been announced by Defra minister Ben Bradshaw.

He made the announcement on Thursday during a visit to Lundy Island off the north coast of Devon.

They include protecting the biodiversity of Lyme Bay off the Devon and Dorset coast, following concerns about the impact of scallop dredging.

A bedrock reef northwest of the Isles of Scilly is also being considered as a possible Special Area of Conservation.

'Wonderful environment'

Mr Bradshaw has been in Lundy to see some of the conservation work being undertaken on the island. He said he was impressed with the way the Lundy no-take zone, established in 2003, was protecting marine wildlife, especially lobsters, crabs, corals and sponges.

"Evidence from the 2004/05 monitoring programme suggests that lobsters in the zone appeared to have increased in size and doubled in abundance" he said.

"It is imperative that we ensure a sustainable future for people to continue benefiting from and enjoying all that the sea has to offer, and so that this wonderful environment continues to exist for future generations."

Mr Bradshaw said the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) will consult early next year on the creation of a number of Special Areas of Conservation (SACs), which represent a unique habitat within the marine environment and must be protected.

Coral
The new measures should protect delicate corals and plants

The three areas being considered are Haig Fras near the Isles of Scilly, Dogger Bank, and the North Norfolk sandbanks and Saturn Reef.

Urgent steps will also be taken to protect rare pink sea fans and corals in Lyme Bay.

Waters off the coast of Devon and Cornwall are considered to be the stronghold of the pink sea fan, with particularly dense populations in waters to the east of the Lizard, the east of Lundy Island, around Plymouth Sound and in Lyme Bay.

Mr Bradshaw said Defra has been working with English Nature and the fishing industry to reach an agreement on the areas of the bay to be closed.

He said the agreement provided the necessary protection on a voluntary basis, and Defra would consult with sea fisheries committees to consider how it could be backed up by legislation.

Devon Wildlife Trust has said by failing to provide statutory protection, the minister is allowing the destruction of rare Lyme Bay reefs to continue.




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