Seas and oceans cover more than 70 per cent of the surface of the planet and a similar proportion of the area under UK control is sea (not including the seas around UK overseas territories). The seas and their biodiversity are crucial to food supply, management of global climate, energy and many other aspects that are vital to human well-being. So it is essential that human activities at sea are managed for sustainability and that biodiversity is conserved.


Cuttlefish (Sepia officialis) at Selsey Bill © Alexander MitchellNudibranch (Flabellina pedata) crawling over algae © Alexander MitchellLion’s mane jellyfish (Cyanea capilla) south-west of Northern Hares, Farnes © Sue Scott, JNCCLobster (Homarus gammarus) near Harkess Rocks, Farnes © Sue Scott, JNCC


That requirement has been expressed at many different legislative scales, from the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, through Regional Seas Conventions such as the Oslo-Paris Convention (OSPAR) to European Directives, national law and even local Regulations.


Key European Directives include the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, while national law relating to the marine environment includes the UK Marine and Coastal Access Act and the Scottish Marine Act. Broad-scale legal instruments are complemented by specific legislation to manage single industries or sectors or by more general biodiversity legislation (for example Natura Directives).


Most of these legal instruments have their own administrative structure. JNCC staff work to help make these structures as effective as possible in meeting the need to conserve biodiversity and ensure its sustainable use. The key to marine conservation is to influence the behaviour of users of the seas. In contrast to conservation on land, there are few opportunities to directly affect biodiversity, for instance through habitat recreation or re-establishing lost species.


Key current areas of our work for marine conservation


Advice to offshore industries - Well managed industries can minimise their biodiversity impacts.


Establishment of Marine Protected Areas - The recent passage of the UK Marine Act and Marine (Scotland) Act has accelerated work on protected areas.


Marine Strategy Framework Directive - Implementation of this new Directive will set goals for the state of our seas generally. We are working to see that these goals will meet the needs to conserve marine biodiversity.


Survey and monitoring - We undertake surveys to identify potential protected areas. We are also currently developing a programme to advise governments on future monitoring needs to establish marine biodiversity status and trends and the pressures that act on them.


Assessment – We bring together survey/monitoring information with new research and expert judgement to establish a comprehensive picture of the state of the seas.


JNCC staff planning camera tows on offshore survey to gather data to support identification of MPAs in UK offshore waters © Neil GoldingMV Franklin - JNCC offshore survey © Neil GoldingJNCC staff surveying the shore © Helen EllwoodJNCC provide advice on the environmental impacts of offshore activities such as oil and gas installations © Alex Brown