Back the Blue Belt

Thank you for contacting me about marine protected areas (MPAs).

The designation and protection of marine protected areas is a devolved issue in Scotland, and it is for the Scottish Government and Scottish ministers to make decisions in this area. MPAs aim to protect vulnerable marine ecosystems and the Scottish Conservatives have long welcomed them as an ambitious and worthy effort to protect a marine environment. It is important, however, that they are introduced in consultation with local fishermen and fishing communities, rather than the blunt approach we have sometimes seen the SNP take in the past.

The UK Government has recently announced further Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) in the territorial waters around England, for which it is responsible. There are now well over 500 marine protected areas in the UK. These new zones help to fulfil the ambitious pledge to create a ‘Blue Belt’ of protection for our diverse marine wildlife. Thanks to the UK Government, 45 different types of habitat, geological features and fascinating sea creatures, including stalked jellyfish and spiny lobsters will be protected.

I am pleased to note that a new marine protected area has also been announced to surround the Pitcairn Islands, and the Blue Belt will be extended around the UK's 14 Overseas Territories where there is local support and environmental need. It was announced most recently that the Atlantic Ocean's largest marine reserve is being created around Ascension, covering an area almost the size of the United Kingdom.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me about this important issue.