Marine protected areas
Marine protected areas

The following Environment guidance note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Marine protected areas
  • MPAs
  • SACs
  • SPAs
  • MCZs
  • SSSIs
  • Ramsar

Brexit impact

As of exit day (31 January 2020) the UK is no longer an EU Member State. However, in accordance with the Withdrawal Agreement, the UK has entered an implementation period, during which it continues to be subject to EU law. This has an impact on this content.

For further guidance, see: Brexit—environmental law implications and Brexit Bulletin—key updates, research tips and resources.

The marine protected areas network in England and Wales provides designated protection for the marine environment and stems from various legislative sources. They include:

  1. Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)—as designated under the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic (OSPAR Convention)

  2. Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) with marine components—as designated under the Habitats Directive 92/43/EEC (Habitats Directive)

  3. Special Protection Areas (SPAs) with marine components—as designated under the Birds Directive 2009/147/EC (Birds Directive)

  4. Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs)—as designated under the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 (MCAA 2009)

  5. Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) with marine components—as designated under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (WCA 1981)

  6. Ramsar sites—as designated under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar Convention)

The Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC), a statutory adviser to the UK government and devolved administrations, provides an interactive map, which shows all the marine protected areas in UK waters, where users can use a filter function to