In 1969 John Lythgoe presented a letter signed by marine scientists from the Underwater Association to the Nature Conservancy Council putting forward the idea of marine reserves. Fifty years on and with the announcement of a further 41 MCZ sites, England now has an MPA network. This is a time to celebrate and reflect on that achievement. Not least on the work of thousands of people over the years that have made this a reality.  This is an even more of an astounding achievement for those who have navigated this result over the last 10 years against the backdrop of austerity and major cuts to the agencies – well done!   Bob Earll

Defra ‘Marine Conservation Zones protect our diverse species and habitats in the “blue belt” around the English Coast.  Contents

  1. 2019 MCZ designations and factsheets
  2. 2016 MCZ designations and factsheets
  3. 2013 MCZ designation orders and factsheets
  4. Policy documents

Marine Conservation Zones are areas that protect a range of nationally important, rare or threatened habitats and species.

There are 91 MCZs in waters around England. You can see where the zones are on JNCC’s interactive map.

These were designated in two phases after a process closely involving stakeholders. The first 27 zones were designated on 21 November 2013. 23 sites were designated in the second phase on 17 January 2016. Following consultation, 41 sites and 12 additional features were designated on 31 May 2019. Updated GIS data for all designated MCZs has been published.

The third phase essentially completed the UK Blue Belt and our contribution to the ecologically coherent network in the North East Atlantic in terms of the representation of species and habitats.

Similar schemes are operating in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to contribute to a UK wide network of marine protected areas.

Stretching from Cornwall to Northumberland, the new protections safeguard 12,000 square kilometres of marine habitat, an area almost eight times the size of Greater London. Today’s announcement follows the government’s manifesto commitment to create a Blue Belt of marine protection for Britain’s overseas territories and its own coast, and builds on the ambition of the 25 Year Environment Plan. The rare stalked jellyfish, short-snouted seahorse and blue mussel beds are among the species and habitats that will benefit from the protections.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove said:

The UK is already leading the rest of the world by protecting over 30% of our ocean – but we know there is more to do.

Establishing this latest round of Marine Conservation Zones in this Year of Green Action is another big step in the right direction, extending our blue belt to safeguard precious and diverse sea life for future generations to come.

Tony Juniper, Chair of Natural England, said:

These new protections are based on advice from our world-leading marine scientists and we believe will go a long way toward safeguarding over a million hectares of England’s ocean and coastal environment, and the many species which rely upon it.

Today really does mark a major step forward for the conservation of our precious marine environment, but there is still much to be done, including putting in place more of the good practices that we know are needed to secure the long-term health of our seas and their wildlife.

Regulators, such as the Marine Management Organisation and local Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities (IFCAs), will be responsible for ensuring the Marine Conservation Zones are managed to protect their species and habitats, working with local fishing communities and other organisations.

Marine Conservation Zones are just one type of the many Marine Protected Areas in place around the UK to conserve rare, threatened and nationally important habitats and species for future generations.

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