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Finding Sanctuary

Feb 28,2007 SACN

P R E S S   R E L E A S E

Breaking new ground to bring our seas back to life

A pioneering project is being launched in the South West during spring 2007 to breathe new life into the coasts and seas around Cornwall, Devon and Dorset  - a region where the sea is central to communities and the economy.  Finding Sanctuary will aim to create the very first network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs*) in the UK, by balancing the needs of the people who depend on the sea for their livelihoods or leisure activities, with the protection and conservation of marine habitats and sea life.

The foundations of the Finding Sanctuary project have been considered and researched for two years and its ethics centre strongly on shared and careful decision-making.  The 90,000km2 of sea stretching from the coast to the continental shelf (the extended perimeter of each continent) is, as yet, a blank canvas and the decisions about the location and nature of the MPA network will fall on an impartial Steering Group.  This Group will be made up of representatives from a balance of interests, including the fishing industry, angling, leisure, enforcement and conservation.  Finding Sanctuary’s involvement will extend only as far as facilitating the decision-making process and communicating recommendations back to Government - it will not at any stage have the power or authority to implement MPAs.

Tom Hooper, Project Manager for Finding Sanctuary, explains:  “The success of Finding Sanctuary rests on the input, understanding and commitment of everyone who has an interest in the coasts and seas in the South West - especially fishermen, anglers, divers and conservationists but also residents and tourists who enjoy the lifestyle the South West coastline brings.  The pivotal role of Finding Sanctuary is to ensure that sites are well planned to provide better protection for a diverse number of species, and are suited, and preferably advantageous, to the needs of those that use the seas.”

The ways humans use the sea have become more widespread, and have increasingly greater impact and stress on the numbers and diversity of plants and animals that rely on each other to maintain healthy and vibrant populations.  Establishing a network of MPAs has only been accomplished a handful of times around the world and Finding Sanctuary will lead the way in the UK by planning sites over a large regional scale.  Its vision is to sustain livelihoods, protect plants and animals and recover the coasts and seas for future generations.  The project has set out a five-year plan during which it will work with interest groups to identify the sites that can bring the greatest possible benefits for conservation, resources and livelihoods and have the broadest possible support from the people who live or work in the region. 

Finding Sanctuary has outlined how it will incorporate the guidance and opinions of individuals with ecological and physical information.  Various channels will be used to glean information

 - Fisherman, divers, anglers, conservationists and tourism bodies will be invited to speak face to face with Project Liaison Officers

    - The Central Planning Unit  will gather ecological and physical information

    - The Steering Group will collate, examine, evaluate and endorse all these findings

This process has been set up by Finding Sanctuary to ensure there is a strong and clear link between interested parties and the project.


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