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Marine Conservation Zones 

Marine Conservation Zones - What are they all about?

Under the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 and the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 the UK Government and Devolved Administrations are charged with establishing a ‘network of conservation sites’ within its territorial waters which will ‘contribute to the conservation or improvement of the marine environment in the UK marine area’.  

There are already a number of  types of conservation sites within the UK marine environment and they are:  

  • Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) which protect habitats and species of European importance
  • Special Protection Areas (SPAs) which protect bird species of international importance
  • Ramsar sites which protect wetlands of international importance
  • Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) which protect habitats and species of national importance

Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) (known as Marine Protected Areas or MPAs in Scotland) are proposed to extend environmental protection at sea to include nationally important marine wildlife, habitats, geology and geomorphology. They are being designed to protect a wide range of marine wildlife and will combine with the existing conservation sites to form a ‘coherent network’.  

Why are they of interest to Boaters?

MCZs differ from other types of marine protected areas because when designating them, the interests of the users of the sea area may be taken into consideration as well as the nature conservation interests i.e. they will look at what else goes on in the particular sea area and consider what designation may mean for those activities.

The RYA fought hard throughout the passage of the Marine and Coastal Access Bill through Parliament to ensure that the importance of socio-economic activities could be taken into consideration in the designation of MCZs.

Recreational boating is a key socio-economic activity within UK waters and it is vital that our activities are taken into consideration.

How are MCZs/MPAs being identified?

MCZs/MPAs are being identified slightly differently in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and the RYA is involved in each process directly.

To find out more about how each country is moving forward on MCZs/MPAs – and to learn about how the RYA is working to represent the interests of recreational boaters- click on the relevant country name above.

Where can I find out more?

The RYA will provide regular updates on the progress of MCZs/MPAs through this website, its range of e-newsletters and the quarterly magazine. Further background information on the MCZ/MPA process across the UK can be found on the relevant websites listed above under 'Elsewhere on the web'.

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