Irish Sea website redresses 'dirty, lifeless' tag

Spiny squat lobster in the Irish Sea
Image caption Ms Nicholson said the sea was "home to many amazing species and habitats"

The plight of wildlife in the Irish Sea has been highlighted by the launch of a new website.

The Wildlife Trust's Irish Sea site has been put together to redress the idea it was "a dirty, lifeless sea".

North West Marine Conservation Officer Cheryl Nicholson said it showed why the sea needed protecting "from the depths through to the coastal shallows".

The site has been put together by wildlife trusts in Cheshire, Cumbria, Lancashire, Manchester and Merseyside.

Trusts in Wales, Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man have also been involved.

Ms Nicholson said the trusts were campaigning to have the 15 Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) recommended for the area by Natural England, which advises the UK government on natural environment issues, designated to provide "a haven for wildlife to recover and thrive".

MCZs are sea protection areas which were created by the introduction of the Marine and Coastal Access Act in 2009.

Image caption The trusts hope the site will be a focal point for campaigners and nature lovers

"Many people have an image of the Irish Sea as a dirty, lifeless sea but nothing could be further from the truth," she said.

"Our sea is home to so many amazing species and habitats but sadly, after centuries of neglect, it is not in a good state.

"We must act now to protect the Irish Sea from the depths through to the coastal shallows."

She said that only 2% of the Irish Sea has official protection and that the designation of the MCZs would increase that figure to 25%, "making a dramatic and positive difference".

A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said the proposals for MCZs were being considered and, following a public consultation in the winter, designations would begin in 2013.

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