Third-party Proposals for Highly Mobile Species MCZs




In 2018, Defra will designate a further tranche of Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs). This third tranche of MCZs is expected to complete Defra’s contribution to an ecologically coherent and well-managed network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).


As part of the third Tranche of MCZs, there is the possibility to include sites proposed by third-parties for the conservation of highly mobile species. Highly mobile species include marine animals such as whales & dolphins, birds, fish, sharks & rays.


Image 1: Razorbill (Alca torda) © Tim Dunn/JNCC - Image 2: Undulate ray (Raja undulata) © Paul Kay - Image 3: White Beaked Dolphins © Seawatch Foundation


By definition, the conservation of highly mobile species using MCZs must demonstrate a benefit to the conservation of the species in its wider context. For example, where there is a significant body of reliable evidence to support a spatially definable area being of critical importance to the life-history of a species year-on-year (e.g. an important feeding or breeding area), and there are localised threats to this species that require management, then an MCZ designation may be an appropriate conservation tool.


Although many highly mobile species in the UK are already protected under existing European and national legislation, MCZs could be designated for highly mobile species if there is clear evidence that their conservation would benefit from site-based protection measures.


Principles for the identification of highly mobile species MCZs


JNCC and Natural England have created a guidance document to assist third parties in proposing suitable sites; including an accompanying submission template. This guidance includes a number of principles third-parties should consider in preparing their submissions. These principles draw on the MCZ network principles set out in the Ecological Network Guidance, as well as experience in selecting Special Protection Areas and Special Areas of Conservation for highly mobile species.


We have identified four principles that we consider to be important in the identification of MCZs for highly mobile species:


  • Ecological significance – is the area considered to be of critical importance to the life history of the highly mobile species, e.g. for feeding or breeding behaviours?
  • Persistence – supporting data should demonstrate long-term persistence (allowing for natural seasonal and inter-annual variation) of highly mobile species at a greater than average density of the wider sea area  
  • Site size and delineation – MCZs should be large enough to maintain the supporting functions that a highly mobile species requires in a given location. This includes ensuring that any supporting habitats, oceanographic processes, geological/geomorphological features or species important to the conservation of a given highly mobile species in the same locality are also considered in the context of MCZ size and extent.
  • Appropriateness of management - The particular value of site-based protection measures to the conservation of the species must be clear in an MCZ proposal to conserve a highly mobile species. For example, the proposal would demonstrate how a site-based measure compares to wider (possibly already existing) measures. Site-based measures may be particularly useful where localised threats are present that are not adequately considered by wider existing measures.



            Mobile Species MCZ Timeline


Submission process


Third-parties can make a submission by completing the submission template in full (including any accompanying data). Once completed these should be emailed to Defra at  by midnight 29th July 2016.


Submissions received after this time will not be considered. If you have any further questions regarding this process please contact Defra at







You will need the free Adobe Acrobat Reader to view these documents.