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Conservation zone in Fal Estuary 'could cost economy £1.5m'

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: January 21, 2013

Fal estuary

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Creating a maritime sanctuary around one of the Westcountry's biggest port areas could cost the local economy millions, it has been claimed.

Last month, the Government announced that it would set up 31 Marine Conservation Zones (MCZ) around the UK, far fewer than had been expected.

The highly anticipated aquatic reserves, which have been in the pipeline for years, will create areas where fishing and industry are severely restricted in order to create underwater national parks.

The zone around the Fal Estuary, which the town council claimed would have threatened "350 years of history and shipping power", is not in the first tranche.

However, concerns have been voiced about whether it should form part of a group of special Referencing Areas, which are offered the highest level of protection, with all activity such as fishing or dredging banned.

Roger Hollingsworth, spokesman for a broad coalition involving sailing clubs, fishermen, councillors and the owners of Falmouth Docks, said matters were being rushed through instead of being given due consideration.

"There is the potential for a lot of problems and they're being ignored," said Mr Hollingsworth, former chairman of the Port of Falmouth Sailing Association.

"The potential cost to industry is astronomical, they're just crazy. What's going on could just end as a nasty tax on the expansion of marine businesses."

Mr Hollingsworth said the Royal Cornwall Yacht Club, which had warned that rolling out the zone could cost the local economy almost £1.5 million, has been working with postgraduate students at Camborne School of Mines to scrutinise the area in question.

Using boats provided by the club, students have taken photographs of the seabed to chronicle the changes to it over a period of time.

By using GPS technology, the students are able to locate with precision the exact area they have been looking at for every return analysis.

"Nobody is against conservation," said Mr Hollingsworth.

"We all want it.

"But conservation comes from good science, not rushed science.

"If we were allowed to study it for five or six years we would have a far better understanding of the impact on activity on seabeds.

"Without those sort of databases [a Reference Area] would be pointless."

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said the MCZ consultation was open until March 31 and they encouraged people to express their views.

A spokeswoman said that once that had been concluded, proposals would be drawn up which would then go out to further consultation.

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  • Fisherboy  |  January 21 2013, 4:30PM

    How sad it is to see such a respected newspaper as the WM News stooping to the same level as another newspaper in the Falmouth area with scare mongering stories, particularly as there is a strong possibility that the source of the scaremongering is the same. May I ask the WM News what steps they have taken to check out either the voracity of the extravagant claims made by Mr Hollingsworth, or indeed his credentials as a "spokesman for a broad coalition involving sailing clubs, fishermen, councillors and the owners of Falmouth Docks." There is no doubt about his close aassociation with the latter but grave doubts that he is a spokesman for at least some of the others. It is my understanding that he attended an informal meeting with members of a parliamentary select committee in Falmouth on 20th December 2012, at which he found himself out on a limb over his stance towards the proposed Reference Zone. Attendees at that meeting included representatives from conservation groups, angling groups, sailing groups, including the present chairman of PoFSA, regulatory authorities, such as the Environment Agency, commercial fishermen, including those who actually fish in the area proposed as a reference zone, and other harbour users with stakeholder interests. It is also my undestanding that there was a broad consensus in favour of the reference zone, provided that it could be done in such a way as to accomodate all interests. Further there was a consensus that such an accomodation is acheivable, with one exception, the source of your story. May I suggest that this story derives from the fact that Mr Hollingsworth is totally aware of this consensus and refuses to accept the majority view and therefore has chosen to muddy the waters with such preposterous and alarmist claims. May I further respectfully suggest that this story falls far short of the balanced journalism which we have come to expect from your respected newspaper and ask that in future, as it seems that everthing that is proposed in Falmouth harbour is a contentious issue, that you seek out the views of other interests in the area before printing such nonsense, in order to present the balanced view you have a reputation for and in order to preserve that reputation.

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  • mrcrashhappy  |  January 21 2013, 2:33PM

    Not to be a pessimist, but if I understand anything about environmentalists and their accomplices in the government bureaucracy they will say anything to persuade, and after they've been given an inch will take a mile.