Tuesday, 2 February 2021

Marine Management Organisation launches consultation on four of England’s Marine Protected Areas

UK Marine Protected Area network statistics JNCC calculates statistics for the whole of the UK Marine Protected Area (MPA) network to assess progress in MPA designation.

UK waters Key information:


UK waters: delimited by the UK Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and the UK Continental Shelf; 

inshore – waters between the coast (defined by mean high water (springs)) and the UK Territorial Sea limit (up to 12 nautical miles from charted baseline); 

offshore – waters between the UK Territorial Sea limit and the UK Exclusive Economic Zone or UK continental shelf. 

MPA designation types included: Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs), Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) with marine components, Special Protection Areas (SPAs) with marine components, Nature Conservation MPAs and national MPAs in Scotland.

Some MPAs cross the inshore/offshore boundary and contribute to both the inshore and offshore MPA counts. The total number of MPAs should be read from the 'All UK waters' row only, not summed from the inshore and offshore MPA counts.

Area calculations in Projected Coordinate System: European Terrestrial Reference System 1989 Lambert Azimuthal Equal-Area (EPSG: 3035), using transformations: OSGB 1936 to ETRS89 (OSTN15 EPSG:7709) and ETRS89 to WGS 84 (1) (EPSG:1149).

MPA boundaries were cut to mean high water mark (mean high water springs in Scotland) to exclude terrestrial areas, using OSMasterMap data for Eng/Wal/Scot and OSNI 2008 1:50,000 for Northern Ireland.

Area/percentage figures refer only to the whole of MPAs – they are not refined to management zones within MPAs.

English inshore waters contain 157 MPAs covering 51% of this region (26,126 km2). English offshore waters contain 40 MPAs covering 37% of this region (66,507 km2). Altogether, there are 178 MPAs covering 40% of English inshore and offshore waters combined (92,633 km2).

The next phase in the Government’s ambitious plans for a ‘Blue Belt’ of marine protected areas around the UK’s seas has begun with the Marine Management Organisation’s (MMO) formal consultation to protect four of England’s 40 offshore Marine Protected Areas.

Now that the UK has left the EU, the UK Government has powers to implement evidenced based marine management that will help ensure our seas are managed sustainably, protecting both the long-term future of the fishing industry and our precious wildlife and habitats.

Marine Protected Areas are designated areas of the ocean which include habitats and species essential for healthy, functioning marine eco-systems. The purpose of a Marine Protected Area is to protect and enhance rare, threatened and important habitats and species from damage caused by activities that take place within it.

The MMO is consulting on byelaws being proposed under new powers introduced under the Fisheries Act, the UK’s first major domestic fisheries legislation in nearly 40 years. These byelaws aim to prohibit fishing activities in Marine Protected Areas where there is evidence that they harm wildlife or damage habitats. The proposed byelaws seek to prohibit the use of bottom towed fishing gear in all four sites and additional restrictions for static gears over sensitive features in two of the sites.

The consultation runs from 1 February 2021 to 28 March 2021 and follows a call for evidence, which closed in December 2020, where the MMO sought additional evidence and views on the draft assessments and management options for the four offshore Marine Protected Areas.

These first four Marine Protected Areas were chosen as a priority to help protect their vibrant and productive undersea environments, and include the Dogger Bank Special Area of Conservation, which has the largest shallow sandbank in British waters and supports commercial fish species such cod and plaice, as well as sand eels that provide an important food source for kittiwakes, puffins and porpoises.

Environment Secretary George Eustice said:

Now that we have left the Common Fisheries Policy, we are able to deliver on our commitment to achieve a healthy, thriving and sustainable marine environment.

The UK has already established an impressive ‘Blue Belt’ covering 38% of our waters and our Fisheries Act has provided us with additional powers to go further to protect our seas around England.

This proposal to introduce byelaws to safeguard four of our precious offshore Marine Protected Areas shows how we are putting these powers into action.

Action is already being taken to tackle unsustainable activities within England’s seas, with management measures introduced in many inshore sites through byelaws introduced by both MMO and the Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities.

Tom McCormack, Chief Executive Officer of MMO, said:

This consultation is a big step forward in agreeing measures that will help protect and revive important marine habitats, vital to the unique and vibrant marine life that live within them.

We are ambitious for England’s seas and want to hear as many views as possible in order to create benefits for people and the economy, while protecting our precious marine environment for future generations.

The MMO is seeking views on proposed byelaws for the following four offshore Marine Protected Areas:

Dogger Bank Special Area of Conservation (East of England)

Inner Dowsing, Race Bank and North Ridge Special Area of Conservation (The Wash approaches, off the Lincolnshire and North Norfolk coasts)

South Dorset Marine Conservation Zone (South West – Dorset)

The Canyons Marine Conservation Zone (South West – Offshore)

The MMO will announce its plan for engagement on the management of non-licensable activities, including anchoring for recreational vessels, for the Studland Bay Marine Conservation Zone on the Dorset coast later this month.

Background: The formal consultation runs from 1 February until 28 March 2021.

This follows a call for evidence, which ran from 28 October until 15 December 2020.