THE Isle of Wight is set to get two new Marine Conservation Zones, as the government announces 41 newly designated areas around the country.

The new sites are the biodiversity-rich east coast, around Bembridge and Sandown Bay, and the stretch of coast between Yarmouth and Cowes, which contains some of the best examples of peat and clay exposures in the region.

Since 2013, a total of 91 areas have been awarded Marine Conservation Zone status, including another Isle of Wight site at The Needles, which was designated in 2016.

Today (Friday)'s announcement by the government marks the most significant expansion of England's 'blue belt of protected areas to date.

The UK now has 355 Marine Protected Areas of different types, spanning 220,000 square km – nearly twice the size of England.

Responding to today’s announcement, Debbie Tann, chief executive of Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, said: “We are very pleased to see two local areas given this level of recognition.

"We have some incredible marine species and habitats here — from colour changing cuttlefish and magnificent seagrass meadows to seahorses and stalked jellyfish — and we know that, with such busy local waters, our wildlife can really struggle.

"Properly managed, these new underwater nature reserves around the Island should provide much needed safe-havens and will form part of a wider Nature Recovery Network across English waters.

“Thank you to everyone who backed our campaign to secure these vital protections.

"Over the past decade or more we have gathered evidence and public support for these Marine Conservation Zones.

"With three local areas now designated, the task ahead is to ensure that the management and conservation measures live up to this promise and really play a part in restoring our marine life and livelihoods.

“We are, of course, disappointed that we don’t yet have a complete local network, as we are still missing protections for other important habitats and areas, such as the seagrass meadows found between Norris and Ryde and the native oyster beds at Fareham Creek.

"However, today’s announcement does take us a significant step closer to creating a wilder future for our seas."

Isle of Wight MP Bob Seely welcomed the announcement, but has said the impact of the Marine Conservation Zones on recreational sailing will be closely monitored by DEFRA to make sure that Island jobs and sailors will not be adversely affected.

Mr Seely said: “I welcome Marine Conservation Zones — they are proof of our intention to protect the environment.

“However, especially in the case of Yarmouth, I have worked closely with DEFRA to make sure that government understands the importance of sailing and the jobs and enjoyment it brings to Yarmouth and the Island.

“The Marine Conservation Zone currently begins at Yarmouth Pier. I am meeting with environment officials to make sure that there is minimal impact on moorings and sailing to the east of the pier.

“I spoke with the Secretary of State Michael Gove about this on Thursday evening. We have agreed, if there is potential harm to the town’s livelihood, the zone’s boundaries will be adjusted at the Yarmouth Pier end to make sure that sailing and the jobs and enjoyment that it brings will not be affected.”