Marine Conservation Zones

Marine Conservation Zones will exist alongside European Marine Sites and will protect areas covering the habitats and species which exist in our seas.

Each Administration in the UK has responsibility for designating MCZs (known as Marine Protected Areas in Scotland) in their territorial waters out to 12 nautical miles. There is also executive devolution of responsibility to the Scottish Government for offshore waters adjacent to Scotland. Each Administration is taking a different approach to identifying and designating MCZs.

  • Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) in English and Welsh waters
  • Scottish MPAs
  • Northern Irish MCZs

Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) in English and Welsh waters

The Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 allows for the designation of MCZs - a new type of marine protected area. Science will be the first consideration in the selection of  MCZs but socio-economic factors can be taken into account to try to minimise impacts on people's activities. These replace Marine Nature Reserves in England. Lundy Marine Nature Reserve became the first MCZ in English waters. Under the provisions of the Act stakeholders were to be involved in making the initial recommendations for MCZs.

Four regional groups were established: Finding Sanctuary in the south west; Balanced Seas (south east); Irish Sea Conservation Zones (Irish Sea); and Net Gain (North Sea) to provide technical expertise in developing the MCZ recommendations and to handle the day-to-day management of the process.

For progress in England see here.

The Marine Conservation Project Wales has identified a small number of highly protected MCZs for designation in Welsh inshore waters based on site selection guidance for highly protected MCZs.

For progress in Wales see here.

Scottish MPAs

The Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 and the UK Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 include powers for Scottish Ministers to designate Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in Scotland's  seas. Scottish Nature Conservation MPAs are a new national designation for the conservation of nationally important marine wildlife, habitats, geology and undersea landforms.

The Scottish MPA project is a joint project between Marine Scotland Scottish Natural Heritage, JNCC, Historic Scotland and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency. It will identify and recommend Nature Conservation MPAs to Scottish Government. Nature Conservation MPAs will be identified using  science-based selection guidelines, but the likely effects on socio-economic activities can be considered in the designation of sites. There are also provisions for two other types of designation known as Demonstration/Research MPAs and Historic MPAs.

For progress in Scotland see here.

Northern Irish MCZs

A new Northern Ireland Marine Bill sets out a framework for Northern Ireland's seas and the designation of MCZs. Designation may be carried out for conserving species of marine flora and fauna and geological/geomorphological features, taking fully into account any economic or social consequences of designation.

For progress in Northern Ireland see here.