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The Role of the MMO in European Marine Sites

Marine non-licensable activities are those which do not require a marine licence. These include shore based activities such as bait collection and beach recreation as well as water based activities such as sailing and motor boating.The MMO is responsible for the management of marine non-licensable activities which take place within MPAs within its jurisdiction (0-12 nautical miles, nm). However, there are many foreshore activities, which already fall within the remit of existing Regulators. 

If the MMO considers that management of activities is necessary it undertakes the following process:

  1. MPA assessment - to understand the impact of non-licensable activity on MPAs, an MPA assessment is completed. This provides information on the MPA designated feature(s), details of what non-licensable activity takes place within the area and the impact of this activity on the site feature(s).
  2. Site management - if the MPA assessment finds that non-licensable activity may have a significant effect, the next step is to identify how to avoid or mitigate the impacts. This includes potential management measures, which are recommended in consultation with a range of stakeholders.
  3. Management measures - examples of possible management options for non-licensable activity include the following:
    - Education and communication with the public and site users, for example, the use of signage, codes of conduct and good practice guidance.
    - Voluntary measures, for example, voluntary agreements on where activities can take place.
  4. Byelaws - management measures to reduce the impact of non-licensable activities within MPAs are introduced through a byelaw. The byelaw sets out the affected area within the MPA and the activity restrictions.All permanent byelaws are subject to public consultation before they are introduced.
  5. Site monitoring


The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) has no formal role in the designation of European Marine Sites (EMSs), but works with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), Natural England and Joint Nature Conservation Committee to support designation by providing relevant information and data.


The MMO is responsible for coordinating how Defra’s revised approach to managing commercial fisheries in European marine sites is put in place.


The MMO can make byelaws to further the conservation objectives of any EMS in English waters within 12 nautical miles (nm) of the coast. MMO byelaws will normally be used to manage fisheries in EMSs from 6 to 12nm and other non-marine licensable activities from 0 to 12nm. More information on MMO byelaws is available on the byelaw pages of the MMO website.

Marine licensing

The MMO must ensure that the requirements of the Habitats Regulations are met by marine licences and harbour orders. To meet the requirements it may need to perform a Habitats Regulations assessment (HRA) to assess the effects plans or projects requiring a marine licence or harbour order will have on certain protected sites. The plan or project can only be given permission if an adverse effect on those species and habitats can be ruled out.


The MMO is responsible for enforcing a range of measures relevant to EMSs, including MMO byelaws, fishing licence conditions, and Common Fisheries Policy regulations. Enforcement of MCZs will be coordinated through MMO's risk-based enforcement model.