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Norfolk public invited to advise on future of Europe’s largest chalk bed

The Cromer Shoal Chalk Beds MCZ. Picture: North Norfolk District Council

The Cromer Shoal Chalk Beds MCZ. Picture: North Norfolk District Council

North Norfolk District Council

The Norfolk public is being asked to advise on the future of one of the world’s largest chalk beds.

The Cromer Shoal Chalk Beds (CSCB) Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) will soon undergo consultation to determine what the future of the chalk bed will be, and how best to manage it moving forwards.

The public are being asked about their thoughts on the next stage of the project, and how a management strategy should be implemented.

Before any management is implemented, there will be public consultation later in 2018 to give the public the opportunity to have their say about how the MCZ should be managed.

The CSCB is off the coast from Weybourne to Happisburgh.

These beds form an extensive reef, a special, unique feature that stretches 23 miles in length and reaches 3 nautical miles out to sea.

Local fishermen have been catching crabs and lobsters from this area for a long time, and it is widely accepted that it is down to their expertise that the chalk bed is in the healthy condition it is today.

It was fishermen of the previous generation who requested a No Trawl Zone over the area to protect it and that bye-law still stands.

John Lee, a local fisherman and leader of the North Norfolk District Council said, said: “We welcome the MCZ, the pristine nature of the chalk bed just goes to show how well as fishermen we treat the sea bed and care for our environment.

“Our only concern is that no management measures are introduced without complete consultation with the fishermen, we are after all professionals and we know the waters inside out.”

The reef was sculpted during the Ice Age, formed by a vast number of compressed pre-historic fossilised plankton. The chalk covers 30km2 and ranges from 0-20 metres in depth.

It can be seen at low tide from the cliff path from Sheringham to East Runton and is believed to be the largest chalk bed in Europe.

Marine life in the area is abundant, home to 350 species including 30 species of sea slug and a purple sponge, a new species discovered in 2011 by Dr Claire Goodwin.

Shoaling fish such as bib and bass are also a common sight, the smaller species providing crucial food for local seabirds.

The questionnaire put together by Agents of Change seeks to attract and amplify all local voices in support of making the most of all the opportunities the MCZ and its management presents.

If you would like to get involved contact Hilary Cox at hilary.cox22@gmail.com.

The survey can be found at survey monkey.

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