Marine Conservation Zone

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Map of Lundy with inset maps of British Isles and Bristol Channel

A Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) is a type of marine nature reserve in UK waters. They were established under the Marine and Coastal Access Act (2009) and are areas designated with the aim to protect nationally important, rare or threatened habitats and species.[1][2] Approximately 20% of UK waters now have some protection although some conservation, fisherman and wildlife groups are concerned that there are no management plans for each zone.[3]

Following Brexit, legislation was introduced into Parliament in January 2020 which would give new powers to the Marine Management Organisation in English waters.

No Take Zones[edit]

Isle of Arran. South Arran is a Marine Protection Area

MCZs generally do not provide "no-take" protection banning fishing. However, Lundy Island MCZ includes a preexisting "no-take zone", which was established in 2003.[4] Two more no-take zones were established in UK waters by 2010 (bringing the total area protected to five square kilometres):[5], and an additional one in 2016 [6]

There has been criticism of the MCZs for not providing "no-take" protection for a higher proportion of UK waters; for example, the environmentalist George Monbiot has raised the issue in his column in The Guardian.[5][10]


On 21 November 2013 the first twenty-seven Marine Conservation Zones were designated, followed by a further twenty-three on 17 January 2016. There are now fifty MCZs in English seas protecting an area of 7,886 sq mi (20,425 km2).[2]

Northern Ireland[edit]

Following the passing of the Marine Act (Northern Ireland) 2013 only Strangford Lough was designated as a Marine Conservation Zone. In 2015 consultations for a further four proposed MCZs were announced.[11] The consultations ended in March 2016 and the four MCZs were designated in December 2016.[12]

Proposed Marine Conservation Zones[edit]

  1. Carlingford
  2. Outer Belfast Lough
  3. Rathlin
  4. Waterfoot


In the summer of 2014 the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Food and the Environment announced thirty new Marine Protected Areas.[13] Along with thirty Special Areas of Conservation (SAC), forty-seven Special Protection Areas (SPA) and sixty-one Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), 20% of Scottish waters have differing levels of protection.[14]

Nature Conservation Marine Protected Areas[edit]


Skomer Marine Conservation Zone (around the island of Skomer) is the only site in Wales designated as a Marine Conservation Zone. There are 128 marine protected areas in Welsh seas and Natural Resources Wales (Cyfoeth Naturiol Cymru) is consulting with the Welsh Government and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) to consider if anymore areas need protecting.[22]


  1. ^ "Marine Conservation Zones". JNCC. Retrieved 11 April 2015.
  2. ^ a b "Marine conservation zone designations in England". GOV.UK. Retrieved 19 February 2016.
  3. ^ a b "Coastal zones: UK's protected 'blue belt' expanded". BBC News. Retrieved 18 January 2016.
  4. ^ This was the first statutory no-take zone for marine nature conservation in the UK. It is illegal to remove sea life from the area in question which is in the waters to the east of Lundy Island.[1]
  5. ^ a b Monbiot, George (2014). "Ripping up the sea floor..." Retrieved 4 September 2016.
  6. ^ "Guardian Feb 2020". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 April 2021.
  7. ^ "South Arran MPA". Scottish Natural Heritage. Retrieved 4 September 2016.
  8. ^ "Flamborough Head". Retrieved 4 September 2016.
  9. ^ "Medway Nursery Area". Retrieved 14 April 2021.
  10. ^ Monbiot, George (2012). "The UK's marine reserves are nothing but paper parks". Retrieved 7 April 2015.
  11. ^ "Marine conservation zones consultation". GOV.UK. Department of Environment Northern Ireland. Archived from the original on 2 March 2016. Retrieved 19 February 2016.
  12. ^ "MCZ Project Northern Ireland". Retrieved 2018-01-18.
  13. ^ Marine Scotland Marine Protection Areas.
  14. ^ "Support for our seas". The Nature of Scotland (20): 10–15. 2014.
  15. ^ "Nature Conservation Marine Protected Areas". Scottish Natural History. Dualchas Nàdair na h-Alba. Retrieved 19 February 2016.
  16. ^ "Nature Conservation Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)". JNCC. Retrieved 19 February 2016.
  17. ^ JNCC Central Fladen.
  18. ^ JNCC East of Gannet and Montrose Fields.
  19. ^ JNCC Faroe-Shetland Sponge Belt.
  20. ^ JNCC Firth of Forth Banks Complex.
  21. ^ JNCC Geikie Slide and Hebridean Slope.
  22. ^ "Marine Conservation Zones in Wales". Natural Resources Wales. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 19 February 2016.

External links[edit]