The latest stage of proposed measures to protect further valuable marine habitats and manage harmful fishing activity in England’s Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are unveiled today (17 January 2023) by Defra and the MMO.

The news follows the announcement from the UK Government on 13 April 2022 regarding a ban on bottom trawling from four other England’s offshore MPAs, including the Dogger Bank.



Below is an extract from the Defra / MMO press release:

‘The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) is delivering an ambitious programme to protect all 40 English offshore MPAs from harmful fishing activity by 2024, with byelaws already in place in key sites including Dogger Bank and The Canyons.

In the latest stage of the programme, the MMO has today launched a consultation on a proposed byelaw to ban bottom-towed gear in 13 more MPAs to protect vital marine ecosystems – an area of over 4,000 km2. Combined with existing MMO byelaws, this will bring the total area protected from bottom-towed gear by MMO byelaws to almost 18,000 km2.

With 178 MPAs spanning 40% of England’s waters, these areas are critical to protect rare and threatened habitats and species from damage caused by human activities such as fishing.

Locations that would gain protection include Cape Bank, home to ecologically important species such as pea urchins and a type of starfish called a cushion star; Haig Fras, a site that supports a variety of fauna ranging from jewel anemones and solitary corals; and Goodwin Sands, home to rocky habitats that support species such as pinks sea fans, cup corals and commercially important shellfish and fish.

The consultation will run alongside a call for evidence to gather views on the impacts of anchored nets and lines, bottom-towed fishing gear and traps on valuable marine features such as reefs and sandbanks across England’s MPA network.

Tom McCormack, Chief Executive Officer of MMO, said:

“Following completion of our call for evidence on the impacts of bottom towed fishing in these 13 marine protected areas, we will now launch a formal consultation on proposed byelaws for these sites. We look forward to engaging with stakeholders and interested parties on the byelaw proposals.”

Today’s announcement follows the Environment Secretary Thérèse Coffey attending the UN Conference of Biological Diversity (CBD) COP15 in Montreal in December last year, where nations adopted the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework including the global 30by30 target. The UK has also committed to continue working through these initiatives to support global implementation of the 30by30 target.’

Greenpeace report into UK MPAs

Separately, in December 2022 Greenpeace released a report that analysed the UK’s network of MPAs to establish whether the government is on track to properly protect 30% of UK waters by 2030. In the report the NGO identified that Some of the key findings were:

  • Over 60% of offshore MPAs are substantially open to all fishing activity year-round.
  • Just five of the UK’s 76 offshore MPAs are protected against bottom towed gear with two of these having site-wide protection.
  • Only 8% of UK MPAs – an area of ocean the size of less than 0.1% of the UK’s EEZ – are fully closed to all bottom and pelagic towed fishing gear and can sustain ecosystem recovery. No offshore MPAs are fully closed to all towed gear.

Further information and resources:

  • The formal consultation and the call for evidence run from 17 January to 28 March 2023.
  • The full press release from the MMO and Defra can be read here.
  • Research and analysis: Managing Fishing in Marine Protected Areas.
  • The call for evidence – gear-feature interactions in marine protected areas can be found here.
  • The Formal Consultation – MMO management of fishing activity impacts in marine protected areas can be found here.

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