In the UK
There are a number of different types of marine protected areas (MPAs) in place around the UK, including European Marine Sites, and a small number of marine nature reserves and voluntary marine conservation areas. Currently, there are only three tiny ‘no-take’ areas, covering less than 0.01% of the UK’s seas, within which no fishing is allowed; Lundy off the North Devon coast, and Lamlash Bay on the Isle of Arran coast in Scotland, and Flamborough Head off the North Yorkshire coast.
The UK has committed to establishing an ecologically coherent network of MPAs under several agreements including the OSPAR Convention, the World Summit on Sustainable Development and the Convention on Biological Diversity.
Following the introduction of the UK Marine and Coastal Access Act (2009) and the Marine (Scotland) Act (2010), the UK is now working towards a network of MPAs throughout its waters. In English waters, 127 recommended ‘Marine Conservation Zones’ (MCZs – a new type of MPA) have been identified through an extensive stakeholder process. Thirty-one of these sites were selected by the government as candidates for designation in 2013 and a public consultation was held on the proposals. The government is now considering responses to the consultation and will make a decision on which sites to designate as MCZs in September.
MPAs in Scotland are expected to be consulted on later this year, and it is hoped that forthcoming legislation in Northern Ireland will enable the process to begin there as soon as possible.
A well designed and effectively managed network of MPAs around the UK will be a great step in the right direction towards conserving our marine life. However, we believe it does not go far enough. To truly restore and protect our seas and the resources they provide, some areas of considerable size must be fully protected from all extractive and damaging activities. These areas (marine reserves) will serve to protect and restore fragile habitats and species, replenish the seas around them, and act as insurance against further destruction and disaster.