Marine Conservation Zones
Protecting the UK’s rich marine environment and giving damaged
areas the chance to recover are the ultimate aims of a planned
network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). The Government is
committed to creating this network and ensuring that it is
In England and Wales this network will be made up of existing
and new MPAs, including European marine sites, the marine
components of Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) and
Ramsar sites, as well as Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) designated
under the Marine and Coastal Access Act (2009).
Marine Conservation Zone Project
The Marine Conservation Zone Project is a
partnership between JNCC and Natural England, working with people
who use the sea to identify MCZs in the inshore waters of England
and the offshore waters of England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
MCZs aim to conserve areas of our seas,
protecting rare, threatened and representative habitats and species
and helping to ensure long-term sustainability of marine resources.
They will protect precious habitats such as seagrass beds, deep-sea
sponge aggregations and coral gardens and species such as
seahorses, eels and anemones. The Project area has been split into
four regional MCZ projects covering the south-west (Finding
Sanctuary), Irish Sea (Irish Sea Conservation Zones), North Sea
(Net Gain) and south-east (Balanced Seas).
These regional projects are working with
representatives from a cross-section of sea user and interest
groups - including the science, leisure, commercial fishing and
industry sectors. The representatives are involved with regional
stakeholder groups and are responsible for identifying locations
for MCZs and recommending them to Government.
Science behind the zones
Ensuring that an
ecologically coherent network is achieved will be the main
consideration in the selection of MCZs. However, the benefits of
taking socio-economics into account throughout the planning process
are recognised. Involving sea users and interest groups will build
understanding and support for the MCZ recommendations put forward
by the regional stakeholder groups. JNCC and Natural England have
produced detailed guidance on what should be conserved within the
network. This Ecological Network Guidance describes
the species and habitats to be included, provides guidelines on the
amount, size and spacing of MPAs in the MCZ Project region, and
sets out the framework for protection levels.
Scientific and socio-economic data are being
gathered and anyone with knowledge of the variety and location of
life in our seas, or how different areas of our seas are used, is
being encouraged to share this information. This will ensure the
selection of sites is based on the best available evidence and that
management measures are appropriate for sea use alongside the
conservation of the natural features for which the sites are
designated. Where there are choices about where to designate sites,
the stakeholder groups aim to minimise the impact to sea
Marine Conservation Zones in Wales
In Welsh inshore waters Marine Conservation
Zones will be identified through the Marine Conservation
Zone Project Wales. This is a separate project led by the Welsh
Assembly Government, which aims to identify a small number of
highly protected Marine Conservation Zones.