Clause 117 — Grounds for designation of MCZs

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department – in the House of Commons at 9:45 pm on 26th October 2009.

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Photo of Philip Hollobone Philip Hollobone Conservative, Kettering 9:45 pm, 26th October 2009

I am pleased to be a signatory to amendment 3, although it is a great shame that the issue was not picked up in Committee.

Essentially, the argument is about whether the word "habitat" goes far enough in protecting our marine environment or whether it should be added to with the word "ecosystem". According to the Oxford English Dictionary, "habitat" means

"the natural home or environment of an organism," whereas "ecosystem" is defined as

"a biological community of interacting organisms and their physical environment."

The word "ecosystem" is used to describe natural living systems. An ecosystem consists of plants, animals and micro-organisms in an area and their functioning together in combination with the physical character of that area. Necessarily, ecosystems are frequently complex. An ecosystem includes not only the physical habitats in an area and all the species that live in them, but the full range of interactions among all the different species in an area. Amendment 3 would add a new paragraph (d) to clause 117(1). Central to the ecosystem concept is the idea that living organisms are continually engaged in a set of relationships with every other element, living and non-living, in the habitat in which they live.

That has huge legal implications. Friends of the Earth has obtained legal opinion that argues that the common fisheries policy can be challenged as a result of that definition. Under EU law, the EU can forbid fishing in an area when the prohibition is for the purposes of both nature conservation and the protection of the marine ecosystem as a whole. Thus, if fishing were damaging the fundamental fabric of the marine ecosystem in an area and a member state wished to protect the marine ecosystem as a whole, that member state could establish a marine reserve covering that area and prohibit all damaging activity.

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