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27 October 2010

Manx marine reserve

The next stage of consultation to create a marine nature reserve off the Isle of Man has been announced.

The project is part of a major expansion of marine protection in the Irish Sea.

Others forms of marine protection being worked on include Marine Conservation Zones, Special Areas of Protection and Special Protected Areas.

The project lies within the Isle of Man’s inshore waters and so falls outside the area currently being looked at for possible Marine Conservation Zones.

John Shimmin, minister for the Isle of Man’s Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture, said: “The Manx Fish Producers Organisation has proposed a 40km2 section of Ramsey Bay and the Ballacash Channel as an area to be closed to scallop dredging and queenie trawling.

“This, in turn, has been supported by the Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture (DEFA) as a suitable area to develop plans for a Marine Nature Reserve.

“This positive and proactive move by the Manx fishing industry is a fantastic development in the sustainable management of Manx seas.

“By working together to protect Ramsey Bay we can ensure the long-term future of our fisheries and at the same time the spectacular marine life of the area.

“Ramsey Bay is particularly suitable as a Marine Nature Reserve because it will allow the Isle of Man to protect areas of diverse marine habitats including maerl beds, eelgrass meadows and kelp forests.

“Last week DEFA reseeded part of the bay with 100,000 young scallops which will help the bay to provide a vital role in replenishing nearby fishing grounds.

“A large additional area around the Ballacash Channel which is home to an extensive horse mussel reef will also be protected. These habitats are important because they are home to numerous species of plants and animals, stabilise the seabed, keep our seas clean and also store carbon like tropical rainforests.

“Maerl habitats are also known to play an important role as a nursery ground for commercially important species such as cod and queenies.

“Protecting these special habitats effectively will also help Manx fisheries achieve Marine Stewardship Council accreditation as sustainable fisheries, a standard increasingly demanded by supermarkets and other seafood outlets.

“I look forward to hearing the views on all those with an interest in our wonderful marine natural heritage as we move towards confirmation of our first Marine Nature Reserve.”

Under the proposal, Ramsey Bay would be established as a Marine Nature Reserve.

The Wildlife Committee, established to provide scientific and conservation advice to the Isle of Man government, has assessed the proposal and confirmed that the site meets international scientific criteria for Marine Protected Areas.

Formal consultation on the site is due to start at the beginning of December.

Tom Bryan-Brown, chief executive of the Manx Fish Producers, said: “The fishermen of this organisation have proposed that this area of Ramsey Bay should be shut down to scallop and queenie fishing.

“This will hopefully help the stocks of scallops and queen scallops but will also by association, fulfil the Island’s obligation to the protection of particular marine species and habitats.