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 Marine Conservation Zones

The Government's aim is to develop an ecologically coherent and well-managed network of Marine Protected Areas. This network will be made up of European Marine Sites, SSSIs, Ramsar sites and Marine Conservation Zones (MCZ).

The Marine and Coastal Access Act (MCAA) 2009 allows for the creation of Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs). MCZs protect a range of nationally important marine wildlife, habitats, geology and geomorphology, and can be designated anywhere in English and Welsh territorial and UK offshore waters. The MPA Interactive Map shows the location of all MCZs that are currently designated. 

Each MCZ is established by a legal order made by Defra under  the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 (MCAA). Each order designates an area as an MCZ and defines that area, lists the features being protected within that area and specifies the conservation objective or objectives of the MCZ. Generally, each MCZ has one conservation objective. The objective applies to all of the features being protected and is that each of the features being protected be in favourable condition. To achieve this objective, the general management approach required for a feature in an MCZ will either be for it to be maintained in favourable condition (if it is currently in this state), or for it to be recovered to favourable condition (if it is currently in a damaged state) and then to be maintained in favourable condition. Site-specific conservation advice is published by Natural England after designation of the MCZ.

In 2020, the SEMS Management Scheme started to include MCZs in the Solent in its Annual Survey. Within MCZs the MCAA does not provide a provision for the establishment of management coordination schemes, but public authorities are free to establish management or liaison groups, and to develop management schemes for MCZs with other stakeholders and regulators where they see advantage of co-operation on the management of current or future impacts on a site.

Management measures required within Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) are decided on a site-by-site basis, and will depend on what the site has been designated for. Public authorities have responsibility for identifying and enforcing the most effective form of management of the MCZ in relation to the activities they are responsible for, drawing on the advice and guidance provided by Natural England.

MCZs in the Solent

The Needles became a MCZ in January 2016. The Needles MCZ is an inshore site that covers the stretch of Solent adjacent to the northwest side of the Isle of Wight to just south of the Needles, and includes a series of sheltered bays. This site covers an area of 11 km².

On 31 May 2019, Defra announced the designation of a third tranche of Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) to complete the Marine Protected Area (MPA) network. This tranche includes 41 new sites and additional features to already designated sites.

Sites designated in the Solent are: 

General Duties of Public Authorities in Relation to MCZs

A range of public authorities have responsibility for regulation of activities occurring in the sea and on the coast. These include the Marine Management Organisation (MMO), the Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities (IFCAs), the Environment Agency, Local Authorities, Harbour Authorities and the Department of Energy and Climate Change. Where the functions of a public authority have the potential to impact on an MCZ, the MCAA created an obligation on the authority to carry out its functions in a manner that best furthers the conservation objectives of the MCZ (section 125 of the MCAA). Where this is not possible, the public authority is required to proceed in the manner that least hinders the achievement of the MCZ’s conservation objectives.