Trawler Net on commercial fishing boat Anney Lier

Marine UnProtected Areas

2 minute read

For climate and nature, England's offshore Marine Protected Areas must be properly protected.

We need your help. Join our call for ocean action.

The problem

These areas are supposed to protect the seabed.

Inadequate protections mean our seas continue to be damaged and degraded as fishing gear is ploughed through them.



of UK's offshore seabed MPAs experience fishing activity

The problem for climate and nature

  • As the seabed is trawled, carbon is released into the water, where it can make its way into the atmosphere and could ultimately contribute to climate change.
  • Many Marine Protected Areas are vital feeding and nesting grounds. Current fishing practices in these areas are destroying habitats and the marine life that rely on them.

The impacts of trawling on the seabed, for nature and climate

Credit: Jack Tite

Our research

We've compiled an assessment of all English offshore MPAs designated to protect the seabed.

We've found 16 sites to be of critical importance for protection.

Half of the 16 sites in red (critically important) has experienced disturbance by fishing activity across over 90% of the total 'protected' area.

Critically important MPA map, Frith Dunkley

Credit: Frith Dunkley

Our Marine UnProtected Areas report found that, out of all the UK's Marine Protected Areas, just 5% currently ban damaging fishing, like bottom trawling - and only in inshore waters less than 12 miles from the coast.

Continuing to allow this method of fishing in protected areas is equivalent to ploughing through a national park on land.

Our research shows that Marine Protected Areas simply aren't protecting our marine habitats.

Dr Jean-Luc Solandt, Principle Specialist in MPAs

Our blue carbon report explored the many ocean ecosystems which are vital in absorbing and storing carbon. Many ocean ecosystems are actually more effective than land-based ecosystems in doing so.

Carbon contained in marine and coastal ecosystems must be considered in the same way as our woodlands and peatbogs…critical to combatting the climate crisis.

Thong weed seaweed isle of Coll Scotland Mark Kirkland

Credit: Mark Kirkland

What's next?

A campaign win!

On 13th April 2022, the Government announced it will ban damaging fishing from four of the UK’s offshore Marine Protected Areas, effective as of 13th June 2022.

Fishing gear which impacts the seabed will be banned from four of England offshore Marine Protected Areas.

MPA Legislation, April 2022

Credit: Marine Conservation Society

But, the Government has a long way to go to reach its goal of 40 sites properly protected by 2024.

Our research found there to be 16 sites of critical importance for proper protections. Five of these sites experienced disturbance from fishing gear across 100% of the protected area.

Since 1st January 2022 there have been 15,530 hours of fishing within the 16 ‘critically important’ sites by boats using bottom-contacting mobile gear.

Now is the time for Government to focus their attentions and act with urgency.

Sign the petition

By completely banning damaging fishing in Marine Protected Areas designed to protect the seabed, it is possible for our seas to recover.

Join our call for action

England's offshore Marine Protected Areas continue to be exploited by fishing methods damaging already fragile seabed habitats.

Last year, supposedly a 'Marine Super Year', saw the UK Government's promises broken as the ocean suffered the consequences.

While damaging fishing is permitted to continue in these protected seas, the ocean's power to buffer the effects of the climate crisis is reduced.

Show your support for a ban on damaging fishing in England's vital offshore Marine Protected Areas to help protect the seabed and combat the climate crisis.