Explore our marine protected areas

What are Marine Protected Areas?

MPAs are areas of sea that are set up to look after particular seascapes, habitats and species, just like nature reserves and national parks on land.

Why do we need Marine Protected Areas?

Healthy seas are vitally important to all of us. So it’s crucial that communities and government are committed to using all the proven tools available to keep them healthy and full of life. Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are one of the tools governments can use to safeguard our ocean and make it more resilient to change. The network of MPAs around the UK is designed to protect the really important places that are home to rare or threatened plants and animals. It also protects an array of habitats essential to the wellbeing of both people and wildlife. Our protected area network is all about protecting the seabed as the foundation of vibrant and productive undersea and coastal communities.

MCS works hard to support designation and effective management of MPAs

All our work around MPAs is focussed on supporting establishment of MPAs that work as a tool to effectively protect marine ecosystems. Experts suggest we should be aiming for at least 30% of UK waters being effectively managed to protect key species, habitats and ecosystems. Doing this in a joined-up way will help provide what people need and deserve from a healthy ocean.

What sort of benefits will our MPA network provide?

A joined-up network of well-managed MPAs around the UK will safeguard marine communities that provide important benefits to the planet and to all of us. We believe it’s really important to reflect on the many benefits that these places provide. These include:

  • Protection and recovery of rare and vulnerable wildlife, which would otherwise be threatened with extinction or serious decline;
  • Protection and recovery of the structure and naturalness of the sea bed, so that the wildlife that depends upon it can find places to feed, breed and rest;
  • Seabed habitats, like shellfish beds, that are protected from damaging activities and are therefore better able to lock in carbon and provide other valuable functions that are globally important;
  • Places for fish and other marine life to flourish, contributing to a more productive system both inside and outside of their boundaries;
  • Benefits to people who sustainably harvest resources from the sea like people low-impact commercial fishers and sea anglers who could benefit from increased numbers and diversity of fish.
  • Health and wellbeing benefits for recreational users like divers, snorkellers, rockpoolers and beachcombers whose experiences are likely to be enhanced by access to well looked after, high quality natural marine environments.
  • Knowing that we are taking the action required to safeguard our marine heritage for the enjoyment and benefit of future generations.

News Make Highly Protected Marine Areas happen

Erin O'Neill 28 Oct 2019

Let’s make Highly Protected Marine Areas happen! That’s the simple message we’re sending the government with our recent campaign.

Read More

Grey Seal
© Jack Holt

What are MPAs set up to protect?

Learn about the purpose of our MPA network

People on Beach
© Jack Holt

Local Engagement

Working towards well-managed MPAs

© Jack Holt

Supporting a global MPA network

Our work to support effective protection beyond UK waters


What do MPAs mean for sea users?

All about management of activities within MPAs

© Jack Holt

How we are doing?

Explore MPA habitats, management, history and statistics

Compass Jellyfish
© Paul Naylor

Our MPA story so far

Read more about our work to secure MPAs

Did you know?…

Over half a million people have voiced their support for ‘marine protected area’ designation in the UK through our campaigns

To the shelf limits, Scotland has 61% of UK waters, of which 23% are now in existing or new ‘marine protected areas’