Marine Environment News in Brief - March 2023 | Seafish

Marine Environment News in Brief - March 2023

Read the responses to the consultation on highly protected marine areas and much more…

Response to Defra’s Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) consultation

Defra have published a summary of the responses to the consultation on HPMAs. The Secretary of State, Thérèse Coffey, will designate Allonby Bay (Irish Sea), North East of Farnes Deep (northern North Sea) and Dolphin Head (eastern English Channel). The proposed sites at Inner Silver Pit South (southern North Sea) and Lindisfarne (northern North Sea) will not be taken forward. Defra is currently preparing the Designation Orders, which will be completed before 6th July 2023.

Permanent protection for flapper skate

The Red Rocks and Longay Marine Protected Area (Inner Sound of Skye) has been permanently designated to protect a flapper skate egg-laying site of national importance. The Marine Conservation Order permits fishing for pelagic species with trawls or encircling nets, along with hand collection of scallops. No other forms of fishing are permitted.

Co-Fish: Fisheries & Conservation Partnership

The Marine Protected Areas (Prohibited Methods of Fishing) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2022, which came into operation from 1 January 2023, prohibits demersal mobile gear in nine inshore MPAs, alongside management of pot fishing activity. To further support co-management of the MPA network to enable sustainable fishing and protection of the marine environment, the Co-Fish partnership was formed, with members representing DAERA, AFBI, environmental NGOs and the fishing industry.

Marine Biodiversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction

The United Nations (UN) Intergovernmental Conference on Marine Biodiversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction has taken place (20 February to 3 March 2023) and a draft treaty under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction has been agreed. This will enable the use of area-based management tools, including marine protected areas, in international waters.

Water Quality and Storm Overflows

In his speech, Reflections on water: the good, the bad and the future, Sir James Bevan reflects on the debate around water quality during his tenure as the Environment Agency’s Chief Executive.

The Good Law Project have been granted a hearing in the High Court for their case to compel the Government to rewrite its Storm Overflows Discharges Reduction Plan and make it fit for purpose. This case has been brought jointly with the Marine Conservation Society, Richard Haward’s Oysters and Hugo Tagholm.

Defra’s Secretary of State, Thérèse Coffey, has announced that an assessment and action plan for each of the 14,500 storm overflows in England will be required from the water and sewerage companies. These plans need to prioritise the storm overflows that are spilling most frequently, and those spilling into designated bathing and shellfish waters. Plans for a public consultation on how water companies will face higher penalties that are quicker and easier to enforce were also announced.

Retained EU Law Bill

The Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill (REUL) has completed its passage through the House of Commons and reached the Committee stage in the House of Lords. The UK government have recently updated the public dashboard providing details of which departments, policy areas and sectors contain the most retained EU law. Defra have significantly more than any other department with 1,781; HM Treasury is second with 452.

All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) Fisheries

APPG Fisheries have released a recording of their most recent event, Fishing in the Data Age. This session outlined data collaborations involving the fishing industry, as well as the challenges and opportunities to ensure effective and fair collection and use of fishing data in a changing seascape. Written summaries of all attendee questions and panel answers have also been made available.

Industrial scale seaweed farming to be initiated in North Sea

North Sea Farmers, working with Plymouth Marine Laboratory, is creating the first industrial-scale seaweed farm within a wind farm off the coast of the Netherlands. The aim is to test and improve methods of seaweed farming, as well as exploring the potential of seaweed to remove carbon from the atmosphere. Seaweed is known to absorb large quantities of carbon dioxide, but the extent to which this is sequestered, rather than recycled, is unknown.  

UK Seafood Fund

The second round for Skills and Training is now open for applications until 21 April 2023 to support the catching, processing, aquaculture and recreational angling sectors. Between £50,000 to £3million of grant funding is available to update, equip or build fixed or mobile training facilities.


  • 19 March 2023: MMO Call for evidence on ICES area 7d and Lyme Bay king scallop dredge fishery closure.
  • 20 March 2023: Scottish Government consultation on Highly Protected Marine Areas.
  • 28 March 2023: MMO consultation on MMO management of fishing activity impacts in marine protected areas - Stage 2.
  • 28 March 2023: MMO call for evidence on gear-feature interactions in marine protected areas - Stage 3.