VEGA News Item

Natural Habitats and Offshore Marine Regulations - 03/07/2006
VEGA responds to two consultations shortly available as closed consultations on DEFRA's webpage.
VEGA responds to two consultations shortly available as closed consultations on DEFRA's webpage. This is a short summary of our comments.

The Conservation (Natural Habitats), (Amendment) (England and Wales) Regulations


The Offshore Marine Conservation (Natural Habitats, & c.) Regulations

1. Much clearer definitions are needed of what public interests would override certain regulations to make sure that these interests are not of commercial nature.

2. Some offences could be more serious than others; e.g. destroying and damaging a habitat can cause more damage than disturbing a species for a short time. Some forms of nuisance are still overlooked in the marine area, such as underwater noise. Regulations on habitats must take account of knowledge on the sensory capabilities of fauna that equip them with powers of perception and susceptibility to nuisance beyond human sensibilities.

We surmise that noise is a pollution of significance for marine wildlife and that regulations on habitats must increasingly control emissions from ships of all sorts engaged in transport, pleasure, military activities and hunting (i.e. commercial fishing is an intensified version of primitive hunting, unlike terrestrial farming). Enormities of commercial fishing are depleting marine stocks in a manner significant environmentally and commercially and with harm to birds as well. Regulations must be introduced to avoid the confusion caused to wildlife by the intensity and variety of signals ignored by the human species except in times of war. Appropriate “de-gaussing” must therefore be required.

3. There was one proposal to remove the offence for picking, collecting, cutting, uprooting or destroying a wild plant of a European protected species in the offshore marine area due to there not being a European protected species in the offshore marine area. However, as we commented, in the future there might be protected European species in the offshore marine area and therefore this should not be removed.

4. Reasonable excuse should be further defined. What is a reasonable excuse; lack of information, risk of injury to the person, anchoring a boat and pulling something up…?

5. The Relevant Authorities, such as DEFRA, the Environment Agency and the Harbor Authority, need to be involved together in e.g. a Management Group and provide a Management Scheme for the protected area. It is important to involve stakeholders/local communities in this and work with wildlife organizations etc. in the area, e.g. in an Advisory Group.

6. “In deciding… could reasonably have avoided the damage or destruction…” could be difficult to define. How will it be defined/decided and by whom?

7. Are bryophytes adequately covered? Is it possible to restrict bringing in EC protected species from outside the EC?

8. Suggested removal of the offence of deliberately disturbing any wild bird. Precautionary principle should be put in place, even though there is no scientific evidence, the birds could very likely be disturbed.

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