EVERY year thousands of boats cut through the waves, off the Needles on the Isle of Wight be they giant cargo ships or cruise liners or smaller fishing or pleasure boats.

As they do they pass over centuries of maritime heritage and tales of heroism, loss and exploration.

The Needles Protected Wreck Site, situated not far off the island’s landmark attraction, is thought to contain the remains of two Royal Navy frigates, HMS Assurance (sunk 1753) and HMS Pomone (sunk 1811). Over 3000 historic items have been found on the site since it was discovered in 1969.

Nowadays the remains of some of these wrecks play host to a wealth of marine life including colourful sponges, soft corals and shoals of fish feeding in the rich tidal waters.

The surrounding area is also home to other important marine habitats like seagrass beds.

These underwater meadows help lock in carbon, protecting us from climate change, and act as a frontline defence against erosion of our coast. Seagrass also puts food on our plates by providing a nursery area for young fish, and supports amazing creatures like the rare stalked jellyfish and tiny sea anemones.

However, the seagrass beds and other important habitats and species in the area are vulnerable to disturbance from human activity.

As an example, in the 19th and 20th centuries the Solent boasted a successful oyster fishery.

Today, Solent oyster numbers are low and struggling to recover as a result of many causes, some natural and some the result of human activity.

The Needles is one of three potential Marine Conser-vation Zones in our region, The Needles, ‘ffshore Overfalls and Utopia, each with their own special wildlife habitats, and human and natural history.

Marine Conservation Zones effectively offer areas under the waves similar protections to national parks on land. They support sustainable use of the sea and its many resources, while protecting a range of species and habitats.

The Government is currently consulting on these and other new Marine Conservation Zones for the UK until April 24, meaning a window of just over a week remains for us to ensure three key areas in our region are protected.

Marine Conservation Zones will not only help protect some of the rare and wonderful species that call them home, but also our nation’s rich and colourful maritime heritage.

This protection is not just important for wildlife, but also crucial for our local economy. These areas are vital breeding grounds for many commercial species of fish, crustaceans and molluscs.

Giving oysters a chance to re-populate the Solent could also herald the revival of a once successful fishery and protecting seagrass beds can play a role in combating climate change and sea level rise.

As well as being the right thing to do, investment in nature makes economic sense too.

Time and time again we see how our seas are essential to our recreation, food, and tourism economies.

We are urging people to get involved and to respond to the consultation to tell the Government how essential it is that it protects our marine wildlife.