A Marine Management Organisation (MMO) byelaw to protect valuable marine habitats and species in 13 English offshore marine protected areas (MPAs) will come into force on 22 March 2024.

Following formal consultation in 2023 and an official announcement on 31 January 2024 as part of Government’s 1 year on Environmental Improvement Plan progress update, management measures prohibiting the use of bottom towed fishing gear will be introduced to protect an area of almost 4,000 square kilometres off the English coast.

This will increase the total area protected by MMO byelaws to almost 18,000 square kilometres and continues the MMO’s programme to protect all 54 English offshore MPAs from impacts of fishing activity by 2024.


Photo: Thierry Meier


In June 2022, four byelaws were implemented in key sites including Dogger Bank, Inner Dowsing, Race Bank and North Ridge, South Dorset and The Canyons.

There are 181 MPAs (including highly protected marine areas) covering over 40% of England’s waters.  Locations that have now gained 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, Hartland Point to Tintagel, which is home to reef habitats containing pink sea fans and fragile sponges.

Michelle Willis, Acting Chief Executive Officer MMO, said: “We’d like to thank all those who took part in our formal consultation on the proposed byelaw for these sites last year. We’ve listened to your views and considered the available evidence on the impacts of bottom towed fishing in these 13 marine protected areas.  We’ll now be introducing a byelaw to manage fishing and protect the valuable marine flora, fauna and habitats in these areas.’’

Marine Minister Lord Benyon, said: “The recent introduction of a further byelaw that restricts the harmful use of bottom towed fishing gear is just one of many steps that we will take to ensure the right measures are in place to enhance our network of MPAs.”

In response to the partial bottom trawling ban, Oceana UK Executive Director, Hugo Tagholm, said that the new ban “on bottom trawling on reef and rock habitats in 13 marine protected areas is a welcome step forward in the race to properly protect 30% of our seas by 2030”.

He added: “This highly destructive practice bulldozes marine habitats, and can destroy them in minutes, often never to recover. But the fact that this ban is only for reef and rock habitats and only in 13 MPAs still leaves vast swathes of our so-called ‘protected’ areas open to this extremely harmful practice.”

Further information can be read here.

No Comment

Comments are closed.