A summer to reflect on sea legislation

Posted on: 18th May 2011

This article originally appeared on the old website and has been compied here for archive purposes.

Legislators can go down to the sea for the summer for a last chance to reflect on the Marine Bill, says Andrew George. Today the committee stage of the Marine and Coastal Access Bill drew to a close in the House of Commons and MPs representing coastal constituencies across the country now have the opportunity to reflect on the issues raised before the Bill comes back to the Commons for final consideration before it becomes law this autumn. Mr George is the Liberal Democrat lead spokesperson on the Bill, which first came before parliament in 2008.

The Bill aims to introduce planning law to the sea for the first time, to protect marine wildlife and habitats through the creation of a network of Marine Conservation Zones in UK seas. The Bill will also establish the Marine Management Organization which will be responsible for managing the competing demands of shipping, fishing, diving, offshore energy generation, mineral extraction, and a multitude of other activities. The Bill also provides for the creation of an unbroken path around the coast. Mr George has been pressing the Government to ensure that marine areas in need of high levels of protection are designated on the basis of sound science. But Mr George has also called for a greater distinction between areas where high levels of protection are needed and sites where an appropriate balance can be found between conservation and other socio-economic considerations such as the reasonable demands of commercial fishermen and sea anglers. He has also pressed the Government to ensure that coastal communities are given a greater say over the management of their local waters as well as calling for the existing rights of dog owners and horse riders to be protected when the new coastal path comes into being. “The Bill has cross party support,” said Mr George. “We all want it to become law. But we now have a couple of months to reflect and to hear from marine conservationists, fishermen, and others, to make sure that we’ve got it right.

“I think it can still be improved. It creates an over centralised quango with little accountability to coastal communities. The fishing industry must also let us know how it can be improved to protect a sustainable industry. “A chance for a short summer reflection. But I want to hear about any final proposed amendments before the House goes back in two months time.”