UK marine protected areas
As of August 2015, approximately 16% of UK waters are within marine protected areas including: 108 Special Areas of Conservation (SACs), 110 Special Protection Areas (SPAs), 29 Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) and 30 Nature Conservation Marine Protected Areas (NCMPAs). Further designations under these mechanisms are expected in the coming years. In addition, fishery closure areas exist to protect seafish in general, as well as for specific species such as sandeels and blue ling, and vulnerable marine habitats.
For the Isle of Man, five fishery closure areas and one marine nature reserve have been established; Jersey has four marine Ramsar sites; and, for Guernsey, there is one marine Ramsar site.
What do we mean by “marine protected area”?
Marine protected areas are parts of the sea that are partly or fully protected from anthropogenic activities. For the purposes of this Report Card, “marine protected area” is a generic term that includes a number of different designations. These designations are considered to contribute to a marine protected area network in the UK.
*Fisheries closures can include: those under the Inshore Fishing (Scotland) Act 1984; regulatory measures under the North- East Atlantic Fisheries Commission; and regulations under the Common Fisheries Policy.
Further information on these types of protected areas
Characteristics of UK marine protected areas
Feature led: Marine protected areas in the UK are established for specific features (species, communities or habitats) rather than marine ecosystems in their entirety. There are 1,253 designated features in the UK marine protected area network, comprising 105 different species and 74 habitats. All of these features need to be assessed individually against conservation targets. It is the features within marine protected areas that are of interest when considering the impacts of climate change.
Multi use: An important characteristic of most UK marine protected areas is that they are multi use, rather than closed areas. This presents challenges when trying to identify appropriate management responses as there is a need to attribute any impacts to human activities, natural variability, climate change or a combination of these factors.
Within networks: The identification and establishment of marine protected areas in the UK has been undertaken to contribute to broader networks (e.g. Natura 2000, OSPAR). The success of these broader networks in providing resilience to climate change needs to be determined through appropriate monitoring programmes. At present, there are very few monitoring programmes worldwide that provide appropriate evidence to assess the functioning of marine protected area networks.
Marine protected areas in the UK
Special Areas of Conservation with marine components
Special Protection Areas with marine components
Marine Conservation Zones
Nature Conservation Marine Protected Areas
UK continental shelf limit
Note: Fishery closure areas are not shown as they can be updated and are generally seasonal and specific to gear types or stocks.
© JNCC/NE/NRW/SNH/DOENI. Contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown Copyright and database right 2015. UK continental shelf limit. Contains public sector information, licensed under the Open Government Licence v2.0, from the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office. © Crown Copyright.