Blue Belt

I am delighted that in 2016 23 new MCZs were announced, bringing the number in English waters to 50. They cover an area roughly equivalent to the whole of Wales, in addition to 248 other marine protected areas that exist in the UK. Together these are helping deliver an ambitious plan to create a 'Blue Belt' of protection for our diverse marine wildlife, which now accounts for 35 per cent of English waters. Indeed, they will protect 45 different types of habitat, geological features and fascinating sea creatures, including stalked jellyfish and spiny lobsters. 
Furthermore, the new Zones represent the second of three phases of MCZs, the third of which will be put out for consultation this year. They build on further work to protect the marine environment, which includes new consultations on Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) for harbour porpoise and Special Protection Areas (SPAs) to protect feeding and bathing areas used by iconic seabirds, such as spoonbills in Poole Harbour and puffins on the Northumberland coast.
I am pleased to note that a new marine protected area has 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. The Atlantic Ocean's largest marine reserve is also being created around Ascension, covering an area almost the size of the United Kingdom.