National Trust for Jersey chief executive Charles Alluto described the plans as a ‘win-win situation’ as they would protect the coastal environment while boosting Jersey’s eco-friendly credentials.
The proposal, from conservation body the Blue Marine Foundation, is for a large, J-shaped area around the Island to become a ‘marine conservation park’.
The waters around Jersey contain the greatest variety of seaweed in the British Isles and some of the richest and most diverse clam beds in northern Europe.
But most of the waters remain unprotected.
Under the proposal, they would be given special protection to improve biodiversity and prevent damage to the sea bed – while ensuring that sustainable fishing can continue.
Mr Alluto said: ‘If we can help the carbon-neutral strategy, as well as more sustainable fishing, who could argue?’
Plants on the sea bed, such as eel grass, soak up large amounts of carbon dioxide but are harmed by activities like dredging.
Mr Alluto added: ‘Some areas of the sea bed are badly damaged by dredging. If we can stop dredging, parts of the sea bed will start to recover, and that will be a carbon credit.
‘It is a huge ambition for the Island to become carbon neutral by 2030 so we need to use all the tools in our armoury, and I think this will be one of the important ones.’
Conservationists in some parts of Europe are promoting ‘rewilding’ – minimising human involvement in the countryside and allowing nature to take its course.
Mr Alluto pointed out that Jersey was too small for this to be practical but said: ‘We do have a fantastic opportunity to undertake a rewilding project in our marine environment. Sea beds can recover relatively quickly.
‘Climate change and biodiversity are of equal interest to the trust. This will have an impact on the natural environment and on quality of life.’
The hope is that the marine conservation park could form part of the draft Island Plan.
‘We are delighted that the concept and feasibility of designating a marine park is being examined,’ Mr Alluto.
Negotiations are currently under way between the UK and the European Union on fishing after Brexit, and Mr Alluto hopes negotiators will ensure that new deals do not interfere with the proposed conservation park.
He said: It is absolutely crucial that the Island’s commitment to protecting and enhancing its natural environment, as well as delivering carbon neutrality within the next ten years, are not put at risk during negotiations to secure tariff-free trade.’