Nine of the sites identified are off Devon’s coasts, with two areas in the Bristol Channel, one in Lyme Bay and six Devon estuaries recommended as MCZs.
Following the designation of 50 Marine Conservation Zones since 2011 (of which six are in Devon) these new sites would complete a network of special places where habitats and wildlife can flourish to safeguard healthy and productive seas for the future.
All but one of the Devon sites in the report have already been recommended as Marine Conservation Zones in a previous report to the government following local consultations representing all sea-users in the south west.
The new report is published in advance of the government’s plans to announce a third and final phase of Marine Conservation Zones – the government plans to consult the public in 2017 and designate the chosen sites in 2018 – and will be presented to the environment minister, Therese Coffey.
The nine MCZs recommended in coastal and offshore areas of Devon are:
1. Axe Estuary
Where? East Devon, near Seaton
Why? Important for saltmarsh and mudflats, feeding grounds for wading birds and nursery areas for fish such as bass
2. Dart Estuary
Where? South Hams, upstream of Dartmouth
Why? Habitats provide food and shelter for huge range of species including seahorses, oysters, mussels, sponges and anemones.
3. Devon Avon Estuary
Where? South Hams, near Bigbury
Why? Important nursery areas for crustaceans, molluscs and juvenile fish
4. Erme Estuary
Where? South Hams
Why? Habitats for lobsters and crabs, spawning grounds for sea trout
5. Lyme Bay Deeps
Where? 1055 sq km in south-west of Lyme Bay
Why? Area used by white beaked dolphins for feeding, breeding and raising their young. Also important for common dolphins, bottlenose dolphins and harbour porpoise. Basking shark and minke whale also recorded here. Feeding grounds for seabirds such as guillemot, razorbill and Balearic shearwater
6. Morte Platform
Where? Bristol Channel, 5km off Baggy Point
Why? Rich communities of subtidal living reefs including ross worm reefs and mussel beds which provide shelter for many other marine species
7. North-west of Lundy
Where? Bristol Channel, north-west of Lundy
Why? Diverse seabed habitats supporting higher than average range of species, including burrowing worms, clams and anemones.
8. Otter Estuary
Where? East Devon, near Budleigh Salterton
Why? Important for saltmarsh and mudflats, feeding grounds for wading birds such as curlew and lapwing. Nursery areas for several fish species
9. Taw/Torridge Estuary
Where? North Devon, near Barnstaple and Bideford
Why? Important habitat for migratory European eels, feeding grounds for wading birds, nursery area for fish such as bass
Read “The case for more Marine Conservation Zones” report here