Marine Conservation Zone Features
There are thousands of habitats and species in
our marine environment making it unrealistic to select MPAs for
each one. Instead we have grouped habitats and species together
into broad-scale habitats, which take the place of more detailed
information on biodiversity. Protecting examples of these
broad-scale habitats across our Marine Protected Area network will
help make sure that the full range of marine biodiversity in our
seas is conserved.
In addition, we need to pay particular
attention to protecting threatened, rare, or declining species and
habitats – referred to together as Features of Conservation
Importance (FOCI). These species and habitats may be more sensitive
to pressures and hence need targeted protection. Focusing on FOCI
will point us towards areas where urgent action is needed to
prevent further damage.
Together, broad-scale habitats and FOCI are
referred to in the Ecological
Network Guidance (ENG) as MCZ features. The list of MCZ
features (see list below) is not finite –an MCZ can be designated
for any marine species or habitat where there is a strong case for
protecting them, such as a species and habitats of local or
In addition to the broad-scale habitats and
FOCI, the Marine and Coastal Access Act allows for MCZs to be
designated for features of geological and geomorphological
interest. The ENG lists the coastal Geological Conservation Review
sites and geological and geomorphological features of interest to
be considered as features for designation within MCZs.
Review of MCZ Features Of Conservation Importance
As part of the 2014 Defra Assessment on ‘progress
towards an ecologically coherent network of MPAs in Secretary of
State Waters’, a review of the MCZ Features of Conservation
Importance (MCZ FOCI) was undertaken by JNCC in partnership with
Natural England. Following the publication of the original MCZ FOCI
list in 2010, there have been some changes and amendments to
legislation that lists the habitats and species in the UK that are
considered rare, threatened or unique.
Due to these changes, some MCZ FOCI no longer require the
additional conservation mechanism provided by MCZs, and other
habitats or species have been identified that may require
conservation as MCZ FOCI. The review examined the current position
of each of the features on national biodiversity lists and reflects
on both their suitability for protection by a spatial measure (i.e.
an MCZ), and if such a measure in offshore waters (i.e. beyond
12nm) would be appropriate. The full report will be published by
the end of January 2016.