The Environmental Audit Committee is calling for evidence on Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in the UK and the Overseas Territories. This follows on from the previous Committee's reports into "Marine Protected Areas" and "Sustainability in the UK Overseas Territories".

The Conservative Party's 2015 manifesto pledged that it deliver a "Blue Belt" of MPAs around the coasts of the UK and its Overseas Territories. These include Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs), Nature Conservation MPAs, Special Protection Areas and those designated under EU law as Special Areas of Conservation.

Marine conservation plans

At the time of the Committee's previous report, 27 MCZs had been created. The second tranche, a further 23 MCZs, were launched in January 2016. The third tranche of zones are planned for consideration in 2017 and implementation in 2018.

The 2015 Manifesto also committed to creating MPAs around the UK's 14 Overseas Territories. So far, MPAs have been announced around the Pitcairn Islands in September 2015 and around Ascension Island in January 2016.

The Environmental Audit Committee will now examine the Government's current progress so far on implementing MPAs and ask what more it needs to do to meet its manifesto commitment. It will follow-up on the recommendations made in its previous reports and it will undertake post-legislative scrutiny of the Marine and Costal Access Act 2009.

The RYA will now prepare and submit written evidence on some of the areas mentioned below, ahead of the Committee's deadline of 5pm on Friday, 7 October 2016.

Progress to date

  • Is the Government on track to achieving the commitment in the Conservative Party's 2015 manifesto to complete the UK's "Blue Belt" by the end of the Parliament? What further actions should the Government be taking to meet its commitments?
  • How effective has the Marine and Coastal Access Act (2009) been at achieving its objectives? Are there improvements that could be made to it?

Domestic MPAs

  • What lessons should the Government be taking from the process of designation, implementation and enforcement of the first two tranches of MCZs? To what extent has it learnt those lessons?
  • The previous Committee expressed concern about a lack of leadership and resources for the implementation of MCZs. It recommended the Government should set out management plans for individual MCZs and an overall strategy for all MCZs. To what extent has the Government met the previous Committee's concerns?
  • Some MPAs are designated under the EU Habitats Directive. How should the Government's policy on the Blue Belt take account of the EU Referendum result?

Overseas territories

  • What progress has the Government made towards achieving its goal of a Blue Belt around the Overseas Territories? What risks does it need to address? What best practice should it be following to monitor and enforce the MPAs?
  • To what extent do the Government's Blue Belt proposals meet the concerns of the previous Committee, expressed in its report into Sustainability and the Overseas Territories?
  • How effectively has the Government consulted with the Overseas Territories Governments and communities? Are the Territories receiving the maximum economic benefit from the MPAs?

Our position

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.

We believe there are three key issues that are critical to recreational boating interests in both the designation and management of 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

Where can I find out more?

The RYA will continue to provide regular updates on the progress of MPAs and MCZs. For further information or specific advice, please email us at or call us on +44 (0)23 8060 4223.

Image: iStockphoto