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Marine Protected Areas (MPA)

A marine protected area (MPA) is "any area of intertidal or sub-tidal terrain, together with its overlying water and associated flora, fauna, historical and cultural features, which has been reserved by law or other effective means to protect part or all of the enclosed environment" International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

There are many different kinds of MPAs in the UK, providing different levels of protection for different ecological and geological features.

MPA National Steering Group

The MPA National Steering Group (NSG) has representatives from key MPA management authorities and advisers that have responsibilities in England. The NSG was established at the request of the Defra MPA Network Board in 2014 and its purpose was to support the delivery of a well-managed network of MPAs by 2016 and beyond. In particular, the main aims of the NSG are to facilitate improved reporting and co-ordination of MPA management within English waters. It is chaired and coordinated by the Marine Management Organisation.

The MPA National Steering Group (NSG) has prepared a management note on the Duties of Public Authorities in relation to MPAs.

National MPAs

There are several different kinds of national MPAs in the UK, including marine conservation zones (MCZs) for which the MMO has powers to manage through byelaws. Other national MPAs include existing sites of special scientific interest (SSSIs), voluntary marine conservation areas (VMCAs – areas of coastline which enjoys a level of voluntary protection), voluntary marine nature reserves (VMNRs) and any other marine areas closed to any activity.

SSSIs are wildlife and geological sites legally protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Natural England are the relevant authority for protection and enforcement of these sites.

European MPAs

European marine sites (EMSs) are those designated either as special areas of conservation (SACs) under the Habitats Directive or special protection areas (SPAs) under the Wild Birds Directive. Together, the network of SACs and SPAs in Europe is known as Natura 2000.
In the UK, the term EMS includes:

International MPAs

Ramsar sites are wetlands of international importance designated under the 1979 Ramsar Convention.