Issue 4: Winter 2011


James Marsden, Director Marine, Natural England

Hello and welcome to the fourth MCZ Project Newsletter - designed to keep stakeholders up-to-date with the work of the Marine Conservation Zone Project.


The process to designate Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs), as part of an ecologically coherent network of Marine Protected Areas, is advancing well. Over 10,000 sea users and interested individuals have been engaged through interviews, meetings and events while thousands more have got involved with the Project through our websites and newsletters. We recognise the significant amount of time and effort sea users and interest groups have committed to understanding the stakeholder-led process to identify draft MCZs and explore the options using best available evidence.  We are pleased to see the progress being made.  The four regional stakeholder groups (RSGs) responsible for identifying MCZs are beginning to refine their recommendations. Discussions are ongoing and the RSGs are due to submit their third progress reports to the Science Advisory Panel today and publish them later in the week.  The next seven months will be a very exciting and busy time as the RSGs move towards submitting their final MCZ site recommendations at the end of August and the associated Impact Assessments at the end of September.


We hope that you enjoy this newsletter and find it a useful update on our progress. For this project to be a true success it is vital that we maintain the continued support from as broad a range of stakeholders as possible so please feel free to share this newsletter with others who use or have an interest in our seas.


James Marsden signature


James Marsden

Director Marine, Natural England



Extra time for the Marine Conservation Zone Project

The Marine Conservation Zone Project Board has agreed extra time to enable the regional projects to accommodate the increased scope of Defra Guidance Note 1and the impact assessment, also taking into account the issues raised by stakeholders and advice provided by regional project teams.


Finding Sanctuary Working Group © Finding SanctuaryJoanna Redhead, Net Gain Project Manager, said: “This is good news. There is still a lot more work to do, but it demonstrates that the stakeholder process is working.”


The revised timeline is now as follows:

28 February 2011 (unchanged date): the four MCZ regional projects submit their third progress reports to the Science Advisory Panel.


1 June 2011 (unchanged date, but changed scope of what is to be delivered at this time): On receiving feedback from the Science Advisory Panel, the four MCZ regional projects will be required to deliver draft final proposals, including site boundaries and conservation objectives.


31 August 2011 (extended date): the four MCZ regional projects will deliver their final MCZ recommendations to the Science Advisory Panel and the Statutory Nature Conservation Bodies – which are the Joint Nature Conservation Committee and Natural England.


30 September 2011 (extended date): the four regional and cumulative impact assessments must be delivered to the Statutory Nature Conservation Bodies.

30 November 2011 (unchanged date): the Statutory Nature Conservation Bodies must deliver their final advice to Government, to enable designation of MCZs by 2012.


James Marsden, Chair of the Project Board, said: “I’m delighted that the Board has agreed extra time to enable the regional projects to complete their MCZ recommendations and impact assessments.”


Science Advisory Panel feedback on the regional MCZ project second iterations

Low Energy Infralittoral Rock © Lin BaldockThe regional MCZ projects delivered their second iterations to the Science Advisory Panel at the end of October. The Science Advisory Panel have since delivered their advice on how well the proposals are meeting the criteria laid down in the Ecological Network Guidance and this is available to view online from the Defra website.


The regional stakeholder groups have been working with this advice and the input of sea users and interested parties not involved in the meetings to refine their recommendations for a third iteration which will be submitted today.


Conservation Objective Guidance

The regional stakeholder groups are now identifying draft MCZs, listing all the habitats and species that they wish to be included as ‘features’ of the sites. When agreed, the groups will be considering what the conservation objective for each feature will be, and what activities may need managing to achieve the conservation objectives.


The guidance from Natural England and JNCC to the regional stakeholder groups on setting conservation objectives has recently been finalised and made publicly available from the Natural England and JNCC websites along with a summary document that can be used as a quick reference guide.


Restriction of activities in Marine Conservation Zones

Fishing Boats at Whitstable © Alexander MitchellOnce the regional stakeholder groups have identified conservation objectives for the features within recommended MCZs, the next step will be for them, with advice from public authorities such as the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) and local authorities, to identify possible management options that will deliver the conservation objectives.


A full range of options will be considered, including voluntary and regulatory measures. These options, and the associated costs, will be presented in the impact assessments that will accompany the MCZ recommendations. In 2012, Government will determine which MCZs they wish to consult on and the management options available, giving further opportunity for stakeholders to comment on their levels of support for the proposals. For regulatory measures, the relevant authorities would be responsible for implementing them at the time or as soon as possible after MCZs are designated. Where byelaws are needed, such as MMO byelaws, public consultation would be required. More information on the byelaw making process is available from the MMO website.


Your Questions Answered

Joanna Fisher, Marine Policy and Campaigns Co-ordinator, Wildlife and Countryside LinkThis month - Joanna Fisher, Wildlife and Countryside Link

Each issue we invite a stakeholder representing a different sector to present us with their top three unanswered questions on the MCZ Project. For the fourth issue, Joanna Fisher, from Wildlife and Countryside Link, has shared her top three questions with us on Marine Conservation Zones.


How will the Government (and its statutory agencies) ensure that the completed MPA network is representative of the full range of our marine biodiversity

The Marine and Coastal Access Act 2010 requires the creation of a network of conservation sites, and that this network represents the range of features present in the UK marine area (Clause 123, Subsection 3b). There are thousands of species and habitats present in our marine environment, and comprehensive data on their distribution is not always available. As such it is impractical to seek an MPA network that must include examples of all features and we therefore need to use a practical and biologically meaningful method to represent the range of species and habitats in our seas. The network design principle of representativity, and its associated guidelines in the Ecological Network Guidance, are JNCC and Natural England’s advice as to what is needed to ensure that the MPA network represents a wide range of species and habitats. 


The Ecological Network Guidance also provides guidelines for capturing areas of additional ecological importance withinCandy stripe flatworm (Prostheceraeus vittatus) and nudibranch (Polycera faeroensis) © Beth Stoker the MPA network. Areas of additional ecological importance may be areas that support particular ecological processes, are important for particular life stages and behaviours of species, are highly productive or support high biodiversity. Such areas should be used as a qualifying factor to distinguish between draft MCZs that have been identified for broadscale habitats and features of conservation importance (FOCI). It is worth noting that for highly mobile species Defra have provided clear guidance that sectoral measures (such as fisheries management, by-catch mitigation measures and protected species licensing) are likely to be the most effective tools in conserving widely dispersed and mobile species, and that MCZs should be designated for highly mobile species only where there is clear evidence that their conservation would benefit from site-based protection measures (Defra Guidance Note 1).


The Science Advisory Panel will continue to play a key role in providing advice to the regional MCZ projects, Natural England, JNCC, and the Secretary of State, as to whether MCZ proposals meet the criteria in the Ecological Network Guidance, and in combination with other MPAs contribute to the delivery of an ecologically coherent network.


How can sensible conservation objectives be set for those MCZs where there is minimal information about the biodiversity within and impacts upon the site; and has guidance on this point been provided to the Project Teams and stakeholders for the regional MCZ projects?

Sensible draft conservation objectives can be set by following the step-by-step process described in the MCZ Conservation Objective Guidance. When developing this guidance the regional MCZ projects, Defra, the Marine Management Organisation and marine experts within both Natural England and JNCC, provided input to ensure a pragmatic approach was developed which would be based on using the best available evidence.


We recognise many MCZs put forward may have little information on biodiversity and impacts; in which cDahlia anemone (Urticina felina) © Alexander Mitchellase the process relies on being open and transparent regarding assumptions which must be made. Within the guidance we highlight the importance of using local knowledge and expert judgment where such information is lacking.


Draft MCZ conservation objectives will, like those for existing Marine Protected Areas, be reviewed pre- and post- designation to ensure the best available evidence continues to be used.  Natural England and JNCC have also, jointly provided to the regional stakeholder groups and regional MCZ project teams various other pieces of guidance and continue to advise them in order to help support the conservation objectives setting process.


Has any thought been given to what will happen to the Regional Project stakeholder groups after the final Impact Assessments are submitted in September 2011?

Defra is in the process of planning what further work needs to be done, and when and by whom, after the regional MCZ projects have submitted their advice to the SNCBs in September this year. Although the plans are yet to be finalised, we anticipate the need to keep stakeholders engaged in the MCZ work as the Statutory Nature Conservation Bodies (Natural England and JNCC) and Defra consider the recommendations from the regional MCZ projects. Defra will also be keen to engage with stakeholders in taking forward their plans for the public consultation that will take place in 2012.


Other Marine Protected Area Projects in the UK

Map of UK MPA Project AreasAs well as the Marine Conservation Zone Project there are three other MPA recommendation processes occurring in the UK.


Natura 2000

More information on the identification of new Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs) (collectively termed Natura 2000 sites) is available on the JNCC website.


MCZ Project Wales

In Welsh inshore waters the MCZ Project Wales will designate a small number of highly protected MCZs. Site selection is being managed by the Welsh Assembly Government.


Further information can be found on the Welsh Assembly Government website and you can to be added to their newsletter distribution list.


Scottish MPA Project

In Scotland new MPAs will be designated for the protection of nationally important marine habitats and species, and features of geological and geomorphological interest. Marine Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage and JNCC are working in partnership on the Scottish MPA Project. Further information on the project is available from the JNCC website.



Out and about

The MCZ Project team has been out and about discussing the second iteration with national stakeholders. In January we had a stand and gave talks at the Coastal Futures and UK Ports Policy conferences in London. Over the coming months you’ll be able to find us at the following events:


If you’re planning on attending any of these events please come along and see us to say hello.



UK Marine Protected Area Interactive Map

The Joint Nature Conservation Committee has just launched an interactive map to display UK Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). This is an innovative new tool which provides information on the designated MPAs throughout the UK and where in UK waters the habitats and species that the MPAs are designed to protect occur.



Regional MCZ projects

Visit the regional MCZ project websites to find out the latest regional news.


Balanced Seas Finding Sanctuary
Irish Sea Conservation Zones Net Gain




If you have any article ideas for the next issue, or comments on this issue, we would like to hear from you. Please send us your .


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