Last year, the Benyon review of Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) was published by Defra. The Wildlife Trusts backed its recommendations that HPMAs should be an essential part of the UK network for protection and recovery of the marine environment, and that the government should introduce HPMAs as soon as possible.
Today, on World Oceans Day 2021, Defra has announced it will begin the process for designating HPMAs by the end of 2022, setting an ambitious commitment to protect our seas. The Wildlife Trusts believe there is an overwhelming case for the designation of HPMAs across our seas which would see a ban on all damaging activities, offering the strictest possible protections for the marine environment and giving nature the best chance of recovery.
The Wildlife Trusts have called for HPMAs for the last three years and launched a petition urging speedy implementation which was signed by over 10,000 people. Joan Edwards, director of policy and public affairs at The Wildlife Trusts was invited to be on the review panel.
Joan Edwards says:
“This new type of marine protection will be the gold standard for rewilding parts of the sea. It’s a fantastic step-forward, one which The Wildlife Trusts and over 10,000 of our supporters have been waiting for – we’re absolutely delighted!
“The removal of all harmful activities – from fishing and trawling to construction – has never been attempted in UK waters before. This is an historic moment and we’re certain that HPMAs will help our seas become healthier and that degraded underwater habitats will be better able to recover.
“This special form of protection is vitally needed. Decades of overexploitation and pollution have left our precious seas damaged and the wealth of wildlife that once lived there is much diminished. It is hard for us to imagine the abundant scenes that historic records reveal, with dolphins, whales and seabirds as far as the eye can see and huge numbers of fish which were far bigger than you see today.
“Existing Marine Protected Areas are limited in their ability to restore nature as they only go as far as conserving its current, sometimes damaged state. HPMAs will allow us to see what truly recovering seas look like. They will set a new bar against which other protected areas could be measured.”
Following today’s announcement, The Wildlife Trusts will be participating in the Government’s consultation process: we believe HPMAs should be designated in each regional sea, in inshore, nearshore and offshore English waters, encompassing a range of habitats so that experts can study how different ecosystems recover when pressures are reduced.