Marine Conservation Zones

Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) aim to establish a network of conservation sites which will ‘contribute to the conservation or improvement of the marine environment in the UK marine area’.

The RYA supports the UK and Devolved Governments’ shared vision for clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse oceans and seas.

We recognise that establishing an ecologically coherent network of marine protected areas would contribute towards achieving this vision.

The RYA believes that in most cases this vision can be achieved without any adverse effect on either the public right or the safety of navigation for recreational boating.

We have been involved in all four of the English Regional Stakeholder Groups (RSG) and continue to work with stakeholders and the Dept. for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

RYA Northern Ireland, RYA Scotland and the Welsh Yachting Association are engaging directly with the Marine Protected Area (MPA) process in their respective countries with support from RYA HQ.

The RYA wants to achieve

  • Minimise the impact of management measures introduced in MCZs on recreational boating.

The RYA has successfully

  • Ensured that the Marine and Coastal Act 2009 provided that the navigation rights and safety of recreational boaters may be taken into account in the selection and designation of MCZs. 
  • Ensured that a number of important safe havens around the coast were not put forward as a Reference Areas in which many boating activities might be restricted. 

RYA position
We believe there are three key issues that are critical to recreational boating interests in both the designation and management of marine protected areas (MPAs). These are:

1. The impact of MPAs on legitimate uses of the sea

2. The need for objective and robust evidence in the decision-making process

3. The proportionality, enforceability and effectiveness of proposals

Impact on legitimate uses of the sea

The public right of navigation (which includes anchoring) should be respected and upheld and the safety of navigation should not be adversely impacted.

When considering whether to designate an area as an MPA, all relevant economic and social consequences, including indirect effects on sectors which support recreational boating, should be taken into account where the legislation provides for this.

All options for protection through voluntary initiatives such as those actively promoted by The Green Blue should be exhausted prior to consideration of statutory management measures.

The need for objective and robust evidence
At all stages, decisions on MPA designation and management should be based on sound, objective and robust evidence. The evidence should be up-to-date and from a reliable source.

An area or site should not be designated for a specific feature (e.g. species, habitat or historic asset) unless it has been established that the feature is present in the area to be protected.

Management measures affecting recreational boating activity should not be introduced or retained unless it can be demonstrated that the protected feature and the activity cannot reasonably co-exist in a particular area. The implementation of any management measures should be subject to regular review and there should be no presumption that such measures should apply for the lifetime of the MPA.

Proportionality, enforceability and effectiveness
MPAs should be no larger than required to protect the features which they are intended to protect, and there should be no unnecessary duplication of statutory controls already in place.

Any proposed management measures restricting recreational boating activity should be proportionate to the impact of the activity to be restricted. Management measures to protect a particular feature should only apply to that part of the MPA in which the feature is located and there should be no presumption that such measures should apply uniformly across the whole of an MPA. 

Statutory management measures should not be imposed unless it can be demonstrated that they are enforceable and will be enforced. Such measures must be effectively communicated to those likely to be affected, using methods appropriate to the activity. Where statutory management measures are introduced, they should include a general due diligence defence.
Read more on Marine Conservation Zones.