'It's a national disgrace'
By North Devon Journal | Thursday, January 10, 2013, 07:30
A NORTH Devon wildlife enthusiast has spoken out about why he is so concerned the proposed marine conservation zones for the area are not being enforced.
Rob Durrant, who lives in Bideford, is a retired teacher and has spent some of his time over the past year investigating the coast around Bideford and Westward Ho!
He has been amazed by the number of unique species he has found in the area, making him even more concerned about the lack of future protection.
He said: "I consider it a national disgrace that the whole set of 127 areas recommended for MCZ status has not been approved. They are an absolute minimum required to move towards healthy seas where creatures cannot be fished to extinction or subjected to environmentally-damaging industrial developments.
"We still hope the Government will see the light, and be forced by pressure of public opinion not to sit on their hands and see our coastal waters further violated. But this setback is an insult to the intelligence and expertise of the scientists and others who drew up far-sighted and practical plans, at huge expense, to stem the decline of our marine ecosystems.
"Experts reckon that over 30 per cent of our seas need full protection if only to enable fish populations to exist at a healthy level which will feed future generations. At present far less than one per cent is protected. It is a national disgrace.
"You have only to look at the huge benefit that the Lundy MCZ has had on the recovery of crab stocks to see that the MCZs are not a sentimental luxury but an economic necessity
"As far as the official records are concerned, the area west of the Torridge estuary seems something of a desert. It has been my pleasure to find that it is far from that and my aim is to get recognition for it by getting it included in the MCZ.
"I have submitted records for a long list of species. So far, in only a few months of occasional visits (on the Westward Ho! to Greencliff stretch of coast) I have found at least 14 species of shoreline fishes, 14 species of crabs and lobsters, eight species of sea anemones, and seven species of nudibranchs ("sea slugs"), along with many other species which marine naturalists are excited to find, such as European and Arctic cowries, blue-rayed limpets, painted topshells, sea cucumbers, and beautiful star ascidian and lightbulb sea squirts.
"Our coast is a treasure house of marine life."