Evidence used in the identification of Marine Conservation Zones


Government policy dictates that Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) should be based on “best available evidence”, and this is one of the seven network design principles in the Ecological Network Guidance. Providing the evidence to underpin MCZ recommendations has been the responsibility of all those involved in the MCZ Project, including sea users and groups who have an interest in the marine environment. Best available evidence may include ecological and socio-economic information from several different sources, which may be held nationally or locally by conservation organisations, marine industries, or individuals. This paper has been produced to provide an overview of the levels of evidence required for the different parts of the MCZ process (identification, designation, implementation) based on JNCC and Natural England's experience of other MPAs. This paper outlines the guiding principles for the ownership, use and custodianship of the data used by the MCZ Project.


Male Common Dragonet (Callioymus lyra) in breeding colouration © Paul KaySeagrass bed (Zostera marina) with snakelocks anemones © Paul KaySquat lobster (Galathea strigosa) in crevice © Paul Kay


Defra, JNCC, and Natural England have commissioned a range of research to collate and produce information on the marine environment at a national scale. For example, JNCC have provided information on the distribution of broad-scale habitats through the delivery of UK SeaMap 2010.


Two national contracts, led by Defra, have collated and developed a number of national datasets, including:

  • Accessing and developing the required bio-physical datasets for MPA network planning (MB0102). A summary document outlining the outputs of this work is available.
  • Accessing and developing human activity and pressure datasets for use in the planning of MPA networks (MB0106). A summary document outlining the outputs of this work is available.


In addition, the regional MCZ project teams collated relevant information at a regional level to complement the national data layers. JNCC and Natural England have produced this paper which outlines in more detail the information that was collected and provided to the regional MCZ projects for use in their planning work. During the data collection phase of the regional MCZ projects, anyone who uses or is interested in the sea were invited to upload information about their marine activities and the location of notable marine wildlife or habitats.


Since the completion of the MCZ project process, Defra have commissioned the gathering of further data to verify the presence and extent of features recommended within MCZs by the Regional Projects. The MB0120 project has undertaken seabed survey work, including acoustics, video, sediment sampling, to provide additional data and habitat maps to increase the quality and amount of evidence available for these recommended sites.