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Marine Protected Areas designated in the right places, and managed in the right ways, have an important role in protecting the marine environment and safeguarding the contribution our marine resources can make to our society for generations to come. MPAs often evoke strong and conflicting views. For MPAs to effectively deliver our conservation objectives, and to minimise their impacts on sea users, it is essential that all those with an interest have an opportunity to contribute to decisions on where MPAs are established and how they are managed.
Over 16% of UK waters and almost a quarter of English inshore waters are now within MPAs. The first tranche of 27 Marine Conservation Zones was designated in November 2013. Following a period of dialogue with stakeholders, the formal public consultation on the second tranche will begin shortly. In this second tranche, we are aiming to address the big ecological gaps in the network of MPAs, such as where a species or habitat is currently not protected in a region, or only a very small proportion is protected. A third tranche is planned for 2016 to complete our contribution to the international ecologically coherent network of MPAs.There is also ongoing work to complete the Natura 2000 Network, led by Natural England and JNCC. Natural England has recently consulted on plans for two Special Protection Areas for birds in English inshore waters, and plans for further sites are being developed with a view to consulting on them this year.
Management measures required within MPAs are decided on a site-by-site basis and will depend on what the site has been designated for. In a similar way to protected areas on land, there will be sites where some activities are not allowed but others can occur, or where there are seasonal restrictions on activities rather than a complete ban. Not all sites will need the same management measures and there is no presumption that any specific type of activity will be restricted. There may however, be some sites where many activities are restricted.
Extensive arrangements have been in place for activities which require a marine licence such as port developments and aggregate extraction. The MPA assessment process is now embedded in the marine licensing process and all sites are assessed to permit new activities in line with legislative requirements.
For commercial fishing and unlicensed activities, appropriate management measures are being put in place using a phased risk-based approach by relevant regulators, regulating only those activities which have a detrimental impact on the features. Within the inshore area, Regulators introduced 17 new byelaws last year to protect the most vulnerable features to damage by certain fishing activities.
In the offshore area the implementation of management measures is through the Reformed Common Fisheries Policy. This includes commercial fishing activities in sites in the 6-12nm area where other EU member states have historic fishing rights and in sites in the 12-200nm area. This requires discussion with relevant member states and ideally agreement of joint proposals for management of sites to put to the Commission which are then formally implemented in EU regulations. Discussions with other member states with an interest in designated MPAs have begun for a number of sites.
We will continue to use a risk based phased approach with the aim of creating a well-managed network of MPAs.
Details of the MCZ second tranche consultation will be available at: https://consult.defra.gov.uk/marine/tranche2mczs
The approach to management of fisheries in these sites was revised by Defra in 2013.