Marine Protected Areas

IFCAs are at the forefront of delivering the UK Government’s commitment to protect the marine environment and the ecosystems it supports. Over 16,062km2 of sea area within IFCA districts is designated as a Marine Protected Area.

Marine Protected Area (MPA) is an ‘umbrella term’ for an area of the sea that is designated to protect marine habitats and species. They are one of the tools used to protect the marine environment and promote the sustainable use of marine resources. There are a range of MPA types within England established under different legislation and international conventions. Each type of MPA has its own set of conservation objectives to fulfil and together they create a ’blue belt’ of marine protection around the English Coast. The UK has committed to establishing an ecologically coherent network of MPAs under several agreements including the Oslo and Paris Convention (OSPAR), World Summit on Sustainable Development and Convention on Biological Diversity. By linking different types of MPAs together into a coherent network, all of which protect different habitats and species, we can achieve greater benefits than individual MPAs can achieve alone.

European Marine Sites (EMSs), also known as the Natura 2000 network, stretches across 28 EU countries and comprises of Special Areas of Conservation and Special Protection Areas. The network aims to ensure long-term survival of Europe’s most valuable and threatened species and habitats. Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) are designated for the protection of habitats and species (excluding birds) that are considered to be most in need of conservation at a European Level. Special Protection Areas (SPAs) are sites designated to safeguard the habitats of migratory birds and certain particularly threatened bird species.

Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) are Nationally designated sites under the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009. MCZs protect a range of nationally important marine wildlife and habitats as well as geology and geomorphology. To date, the Government has designated 50 sites within English waters under two tranches of designation.

Fishing activities should be appropriately managed within MPAs to ensure that conservation objectives are met. IFCAs are a competent authority for the management of fishing activities within the inshore (0-6nm) area and, as such, must take the necessary steps to ensure that the conservation objectives of MPAs are furthered. Each IFCA has the ability to introduce byelaws for the management of fishing activities in their district.

Management of Inshore Marine Protected Areas by the IFCAs 2011 to 2018 booklet