Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009


The Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 gained Royal Assent on 12th November 2009 and provides the legal mechanism to help ensure clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse oceans and seas by putting in place a new system for improved management and protection of the marine and coastal environment.  


The Marine Act, which mainly affects England and Wales, comprises eight key elements:


1 – A Marine Management Organisation (MMO)  – To operate as the competent marine planning authority on behalf of UK Government, delivering marine functions in English territorial waters and UK offshore waters (for matters that are not devolved) such as marine licensing and enforcement of marine legislation. The MMO was launched in April 2010 and functions as the centre of marine expertise for the UK. Its role is to provide a consistent and unified approach to the coordination and distribution of information and data, and improve efficiency by replacing existing separate organisations. 


2 – A Strategic Marine Planning System – To agree and clarify our marine objectives and priorities for the future and to steer sea users and decision-makers towards more efficient, sustainable use and protection of our marine resources. This process will involve the production of a jointly agreed Marine Policy Statement that sets out both short and long-term objectives for the sustainable use of the marine environment by both UK government and the devolved administrations. A series of marine plans are intended to follow which implement the Marine Policy Statement in specific areas, utilising information about spatial uses, conflicts and needs of those areas. Marine planning will be one of the major functions of the new MMO.


3 – A Streamlined Marine Licensing System – Which will become more transparent and consistent across all sectors operating in UK waters, giving marine users a level playing field from which to operate.  The licence application procedure will be simplified for operators and will involve the issue of a single licence for all activities. The Marine Act will supersede the two existing Acts which set the framework for the current marine licensing system – the Food and Environment Protection Act 1985 and the Coast Protection Act 1949. The MMO will be responsible for delivering licensing arrangements under the Marine Act.


4 – Marine Nature Conservation – Powers in the Marine Act enable the designation of Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) in the territorial waters adjacent to England and Wales and UK offshore waters. In Scotland offshore MCZs will be referred to as Scottish MPAs to enable consistency with inshore MPA developments under the Marine (Scotland) Bill. The purpose of these new conservation measures is to halt the deterioriation of the state of the UK’s marine biodiversity and promote recovery where appropriate, support healthy ecosystem functioning and provide the legal mechanism to deliver our current European and international marine conservation commitments, such as those laid out under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, OSPAR Convention and Convention on Biological Diversity.


5 -  Fisheries Management and Marine Enforcement – Will include modernising inshore fisheries management in England through the creation of Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities (IFCAs), which will replace the existing Sea Fisheries Committees (SFCs); the purpose being to conserve marine ecosystems whilst enabling a profitable and sustainable fisheries sector. The Welsh Assembly Government will regulate inshore fishing operations in Wales. The MMO will be responsible for regulating most activities and enforcing sea fisheries, nature conservation measures and licensing legislation.


6 – Migratory and Freshwater Fisheries – By introducing a new licensing and authorisation system for fishing activities with the Environment Agency as the competent authority to make emergency bylaws that respond to unforeseen threats to fish stocks and allow for the introduction of a new authorisation scheme for the movement of live fish in order to better protect national and local biodiversity.


7 – Coastal Access – Enabling the creation of continuous, well signed and managed route around the entirety of the English and Welsh coastline. This will include areas of spreading room, e.g. for beaches, sand dunes and cliffs, where it is appropriate to do so.


8 – Coastal and Estuarine Management – Will ‘join-up’ existing sectoral policies and bylaws in place at the coastal and estuarine environment to minimise conflict and promote sustainable use through a system of Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM).


How will the UK Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 be implemented?


Defra have produced a series of maps to help explain how the UK Marine and Coastal Access Act applies to different sea areas around the UK. The UK Marine Act will come into force gradually through a series of detailed regulations and orders. Upon presentation of the Ministerial Statement before parliament, the Marine Act will legally come into force. Some of the first parts to be implemented are marine planning, nature conservation, marine licensing and coastal access plans.


March 2010