Following on from the initial announcement back in July, the Government has now confirmed the introduction of nine new Marine Nature Reserves (MNRs), bringing the total of reserves up to ten.
The first such reserve – Ramsey Bay – was designated in 2011.
Marine Nature Reserves now stretch most of the way around the coast of the Isle of Man, from Ramsey in the north to the Calf of Man in the south. The reserves cover more than 50% of the inshore area, within three nautical miles, and more than 10% of the territorial sea.
They provide specific protection for important species and habitats, including rare eel grass meadows, kelp forests and horse mussel reefs. Mobile fishing gear is excluded from these areas, and there are stronger controls on other potentially damaging activities such as the removal of sand, gravel and rock from the seabed. Ground formations such as sea caves and rocky reefs are also protected.
Minister for Environment, Food and Agriculture, Geoffrey Boot MHK, said: “With the introduction of these new reserves, every part of the Island now has a marine nature reserve virtually on its doorstep. It’s important to remember that these are not areas closed to the public - quite the contrary – as we want to encourage the community to get involved with our wonderful marine environment, and ‘adopt’ their local MNR.
'These areas have been designated because they are special for a number of reasons. So they should not be ignored, but enjoyed by families, groups and individuals taking part in safe and sustainable activities like water sports, diving, recreational fishing, bird watching and lower-impact commercial fishing. The Department’s work with the fishing industry has shown that MNRs and other marine protected areas can provide benefit and security for fisheries stocks when combined with good management, and local fishermen are already engaged with these ideas'.
Minister Boot said:
'We see the new MNRs as a key way to help protect not only some very important species and habitats, but also safeguard existing industries like commercial fishing. As the quality of the inshore environment recovers everyone can benefit from improved ‘ecosystem services’, whether that is bathing water quality, reduced coastal erosion and better flood prevention, nutrient and sewage treatment, nursery areas for commercial and recreational fishery species, or just enjoying the sight of dolphins and seabirds'.
'Our special Manx environment, from the hills to the coast and under our seas, should be explored safely and appreciated fully if we are to protect and conserve it for future generations. Our Biosphere reserve status is about how we interact with the environment in a sustainable way and I encourage everyone to learn more about our coasts and get involved'.
The introduction of the new Marine Nature Reserves comes hot on the heels of the recently launched Blueways Trails. These three special trails are designed to promote exploration of the Island’s historic and diverse coast and shoreline, with routes on land, on water and even underwater snorkel safaris.
There are currently three Blueways trails located around the Island: Port St Mary, Niarbyl and Maughold.