BSAC is asking members for their input to a consultation on Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs). The outcome could be important for the health of our seas.
BSAC divers know that the marine environment, its wildlife and habitats are under threat from all sorts of activities. Because we love being underwater we’re perfectly placed to see changes, new species, and the disappearance of creatures we were used to seeing in certain spots.
We have concerns that sites designated as Marine Protected Areas are not being protected and that Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) are not being given the protection they deserve.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has a consultation running on five areas that they want to make Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs). The deadline for responses is 28th September 2022.
What do I need to do?
We need your input. HPMAs are areas of the sea that allow protection and full recovery of marine ecosystems.
The consultation documents and site explanations can be found on the Defra website.
The sites are:
- Allonby Bay
- Dolphin Head
- Inner Silver point
- Northeast Farnes Deep
The consultation sets out the need to identify and stop damaging activities such as extraction, destruction, and deposition. There is no proposal to ban non-damaging activities.
So, what is the problem?
As a diver, you should be aware of a couple of things: firstly, Defra is proposing that anchoring a vessel, resting on the bottom, and taking anything from the bottom are damaging activities. We need persuasively polite responses that explain that anchoring is not part of safe diving practice in most cases. And mostly we try to take only pictures and leave only bubbles.
Secondly, we need to be aware that, specifically for the Lindisfarne HPMA, English Nature are commissioning research that will look at the nature of damaging activities and may look at the impact of diver hand collection of lobsters and crabs.
We really need you to respond to this in a positive way that shows we care about our environment, we are pleased that they are looking at the whole idea of Highly Protected Marine Areas, and our way of diving is truly non-destructive.
In general, this a positive consultation because it lets us get our own good diving practices across. It also shows that Defra is serious about protecting the environment.
Good diving practice
Whenever and wherever we dive, it is important to remember that diver impact may well be managed by voluntary codes of conduct. This is important, but we need to be sure that Defra and English Nature understand how we normally go about diving, and how important marine conservation is for us.
Have your say before 28th September
If you can, please read the overview, complete the response for the areas that are important to you and submit your response. If you’re unsure how to respond, please contact BSAC HQ and we’ll be happy to give you some advice.
It is so important that we support the idea of HPMAs, but just as important is making sure that Defra know that divers are of positive benefit in caring for the marine environment.