Long-awaited UK MPA act to take effect this week

An exotic underwater world of seahorses, sharks and corals that surrounds the coast of Britain is to be given greater protection under new legislation coming into force this week.

The long-awaited Marine Act will allow conservation groups to map sites of nature preservation for the first time. Future legislation to be enforced in these marine conservation zones will see an end to damaging practices such as scallop dredging and trawler fishing.

Currently there is only one small piece of coastline in Britain that is heavily protected – the sea around Lundy Island, off Devon. As a result, species such as spiny sea-horses, found in Studland Bay in Dorset, and basking sharks, seen in Britain's coastal waters in the summer, have been under serious threat.

"This is a truly momentous event for our marine wildlife," said Joan Edwards, head of living seas for the Wildlife Trusts. "We have campaigned for many years for new laws to provide better protection of marine habitats and wildlife, as well as improved management of activities at sea. Numbers of basking sharks have dropped by more than 95% and corals, seahorses, whales, dolphins and seals have all been affected. The Marine and Coastal Access Bill, if effectively implemented, will provide the chance to conserve the thousands of species which inhabit UK waters."

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