The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) has confirmed there has been a very high-level of compliance with new byelaws introduced last year.

On 13 June 2022, the MMO introduced new byelaws to protect four offshore marine protected areas (MPAs) from damaging fishing activity.


Photo: Subtidal coarse sediment ©Crown Copyright


England’s MPAs 

There are currently 178 MPAs covering 40% of England’s waters and the MMO is assessing fishing impacts in MPAs located offshore of 6 nautical miles.

First four MPA byelaws introduced 

The first four MPAs were chosen as a priority to help protect their vibrant and productive undersea environments. They are referred to as Stage 1 MPAs and include:

  • Dogger Bank MPA, which has the largest sandbank in UK waters and supports commercial fish species such as cod and plaice, as well as sand eels which are an important food source for seabirds and marine mammals.
  • The Canyons MPA, which protects rare and highly sensitive cold-water corals and deep-sea bed communities.
  • South Dorset MPA, which protects rocky seabed and sediments, as well as sensitive chalk habitats which are not normally found in deep waters.
  • Inner Dowsing, Race Bank and North Ridge MPA, which has sandbank habitats and Ross worm reefs, and provides a home to a range of animals such as fish, crabs and lobsters.

Last year, after extensive consultation with industry and other stakeholders, MMO introduced four byelaws prohibiting the use of seabed trawls, seines, dredges or similar gear, collectively known as bottom towed gear, within these MPAs.

Latest figures on byelaw compliance 

The MMO confirmed that there have been very high compliance levels with the byelaws so far. MMO monitor fishing vessel activity around these sites and have detected fewer than 15 potential infringements across all four sites, each of which have been followed up in line with the MMO Compliance and Enforcement Strategy.

Further information on compliance as well as the future offshore MPA considerations can be read here.

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