10 years of UK Offshore Marine Conservation

Protecting our diverse and vibrant seas for future generations



On 21 August 2007, a new regulation was introduced that enabled Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) to be designated in the UK’s offshore marine environment (beyond 12 nautical miles from the coast) for the very first time. The Offshore Marine Conservation (Natural Habitats, & c.) Regulations 2007 enabled the UK to protect those parts of the offshore marine area  that are home to habitats and species of European importance.


Our seas have a brilliant variety of marine life and habitats, many of which are rare and nationally important. Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) help ensure that these species and habitats are protected from the damaging effects of human activity. JNCC has been working for over 10 years to identify MPAs in the more remote regions of our seas to ensure they remain healthy into the future. These areas protect diverse habitats from vibrant cold-water coral reefs in the hidden depths to towering underwater mountains that are hot spots for marine life. To date 27 MPAs have been designated under the Offshore Regulations. Additional legislation, in the form of the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009, has enabled a further 27 offshore MPAs to be identified and designated for the protection of an array of nationally important habitats and species. In total, these 54 offshore MPAs cover 21% of the UK offshore area. This area, of over 150,000km2 is larger than England and over half the UK’s land mass. Some of these sites span inshore and offshore waters, and have involved working collaboratively with other country agencies.

JNCC continues to provide conservation advice on offshore MPAs to the UK Governments and competent authorities to ensure activities are well managed, and their important habitats and species are able to achieve their conservation objectives and contribute to the wider vision of an ecologically coherent network of MPAs in the North East Atlantic.

To view the UK’s Marine Protected Area network, including the 259 inshore MPAs visit JNCC’s MPA Interactive Mapper.