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Managing marine protected areas

MCS is calling for a network of marine protected areas (MPAs) within UK seas, and in overseas territories associated with the UK. We have had some success in English, Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish waters, especially since the "Marine Acts" were introduced (2009,2010). Designation is only one step, though. When sites are designated, we believe strongly that they need to be managed well to make sure they really protect the nature of those sites, and enable ecosystems to recover.

How much has been designated?

36% of Welsh seas is designated as MPAs called European Marine Sites.
About 25% of England’s seas are in MPAs (both Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) and European Marine Sites). The process in England isn’t complete, and there will be more MPAs added to the developing network.
There are six European Marine Sites in Northern Ireland’s territorial waters, and another four new MCZs being consulted presently (Spring 2016).
In Scotland, 30 new Scottish MPAs have been proposed, enabling 20% of the entirety of Scotland’s seas to be protected. 13 of these are very large and lie offshore.

What about management?

Once designated, we must make our MPAs work. Many MPAs around the UK allow trawling and scallop dredging to continue unchecked. Many don’t have mitigation measures put in place to ensure that activities such as coastal development and dredging don't harm them. A large part of MCS's work is ensuring that MPAs will be properly managed.

We're working on national and local projects to make sure that ecosystem recovery can be achieved in MPAs:

  • Collaborating with ClientEarth to ensure that fisheries regulators in England control damaging bottom fishing in European Marine Sites. This work is ongoing, with discussion on North Sea offshore sandbank sites involving other EU fishing fleets being undertaken now (2015 and 2016).

  • Contributing to campaigns (‘Don’t Take the P’) and attended management meetings with other stakeholders to ensure that Scottish Government understands our views on what constitutes harm to habitats, and which practices (such as scallop and Nephrops trawling) may need to be restricted in sites.

  • Working with Welsh Government to ensure more sustainable protection of MPAs from unsustainable bottom trawling. We were instrumental in raising legal and public objection to scallop dredging in Welsh waters leading to a complete ban in Welsh inshore sites in 2010.

  • Running the the Community Voice Method project in Sussex (in collaboration with the local regulator) to ensure equitable input of stakeholders in discussing management objectives for local MPAs.

  • Participating in the MPA management group of Kent and Essex IFCA leading to the imminent management and protection of vulnerable sites.

  • Collaborating with University of Exeter, and the Cornwall Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority to survey offshore deep-water reefs that have recent bottom-towed fishing gear bans.

  • Seasearch divers are surveying current and potential MCZs to give us a picture of the health of our shallow water marine environment.

To enable us to get beyond “paper-park” status, we are currently seeking European and UK LIFE and Interreg partnerships and collaboration to enable us to achieve our MPA objectives.

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