Around 2,000 islanders have thrown their weight behind creating a Marine National Park in Jersey to protect the island's aquatic wildlife.
The opinions were gathered in a survey created by Blue Marine Foundation (BLUE) and Jersey's National Trust.
At the upcoming States Assembly sitting on 14 March and onwards, politicians will debate the Bridging Island Plan, which lays out the future of development in Jersey.
One of the amendments to the plan being proposed by Economic Development Minister Senator Lyndon Farnham is a plan for Jersey to create a national marine park.
Similar to a National Park in its aims, a marine park is a designated area of sea that will be protected and prevented from potential damaging activities.
The Marine National Park being proposed would cover 900kmsq of sea, which is approximately 30% of Jersey’s territorial waters.
Currently, only 6.5% of Jersey's waters are being protected, including the south-east coast of Jersey, Les Écréhous, and Les Minquiers. By having a Marine National Park, the goal is to preserve more of Jersey’s coasts and marine environment.
Pictured: The area of where the Marine National Park would be installed and the already existing preserved areas.
The survey, which sought the opinions of 2,400 islanders, found that 85% of people taking part believe it is a good idea that Jersey should have more control over its waters and are in favour of further protection to ‘high value’ marine habitats.
It's argued that a Marine National Park would be beneficial for biodiversity and conserving Jersey's valuable ecosystems. Another benefit would be that the Marine Park would increase the biomass of fish around Jersey and sustain fisheries. This, it's hoped, would protect future fishing jobs, encourage tourism and help to deal with the ongoing problem of climate change.
Three quarters of islanders who participated in the survey said that they think the islands fish stocks are in worse conditions than 50 years ago.
At the moment, a ban on bottom trawling and dredging is not being considered, but 91% of islanders responded saying they would be in favour of this ban.
Pictured: If the marine park goes ahead, Jersey would be aligning itself with the Global Ocean Alliance's target of 30% of sea being protected. The alliance includes Jersey's closest neighbours France and the UK.
“The people of Jersey have sent a very clear message. They want to see this new-found control over their waters result in sustainable management, for the island, for the environment and for future generations," said Charles Clover, Executive Director of BLUE.
"Jersey is at a crossroads and its people have chosen firmly which path they wish to take.”
Although not backing the full creation of a 900 km2 Marine National Park, which has been called for by the Blue Marine Foundation and Senator Farnham, the Environment Minister has committed to creating a ‘marine spatial plan’ by 2025 which will develop a ‘network of marine protected areas’.
Environment Minister Deputy John Young argues that this incorporates the spirit of Senator Farnham's original proposal, but overcomes some of its practical problems.
The fundamental issue is a technical one: the Marine National Park is a planning designation, whereas the protection of areas against over-fishing and bad practices falls under fisheries legislation and also has to comply with international rules and regulations, including the post-Brexit trade deal.
Independent inspectors who reviewed the idea supported the Minister’s view that creating a Marine National Park would be premature and it was best to develop a ‘spatial plan’ as soon as possible.
National Trust CEO Charles Alluto commented: “The Crown gifted the seabed to the people of Jersey in 2015 and this poll clearly demonstrates how the majority of islanders would like to see their marine environment managed and cared for by our Government.
"This month, States Members will have the unique opportunity, afforded through the Bridging Island Plan debate, to demonstrate that they have listened to the people of Jersey and to put the necessary measures in place to deliver a marine park for the future benefit of our island."
The idea of creating a Marine National Park will be voted on during the debate on the Bridging Island Plan, which will start on Monday 14 March.
Express also took a dive into the idea of a new Marine Park with Blue Marine's Freddie Watson...
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