MCZ Advice Protocols

The independent review of candidate Special Areas of Conservation (cSAC) undertaken in 2011 recommended that for evidence based processes, protocols should be developed and shared between statutory nature conservation bodies. A set of protocols were developed by JNCC and Natural England for the provision of our formal advice on MCZs and to promote openness and transparency, we sought external comment on the draft protocols.

We received comments from the Defra commissioned Independent Expert Review Group and a variety of stakeholders on the majority of these protocols (see below for more information) and the comments were considered by JNCC and Natural England. The final versions of the MCZ advice protocols are available to view below along with details of the comments received and how they were taken into account.

These protocols were used by JNCC and Natural England in the production of the post Regional MCZ Project advice package which was submitted to Defra in July 2012, and have been used in further MCZ advice where necessary and appropriate. All scientific advice and evidence used by JNCC adheres to JNCC’s Evidence Quality Assurance Policy.
A. Strategic protocol – The principles underpinning our Statutory Nature Conservation Body advice on Marine Conservation Zone designation

Protocol A - Analysis of comments


B. Quality assurance and independent expert review

Protocol B - Analysis of comments (available to view soon)


C. Document style and language

D. Audit trail – version control and record keeping


E. Assessing the scientific confidence in the presence and extent of features in recommended Marine Conservation Zones Protocol E - Analysis of comments

Guidance on aspects of the practical application of the Protocol E for MPA work (published November 2013)


F. Assessing scientific confidence of feature condition

Protocol F - Analysis of comments


G. Assessing Marine Conservation Zones most at risk 

Protocol G - Analysis of comments (available to view soon)


H. Assessing the contribution of existing sites to the network

Protocol H - Analysis of comments


I. Assessing certainty in the appropriateness of conservation objectives1

Protocol I - Analysis of comments (available to view soon)


MCZ Levels of Evidence: Advice on when data supports a feature/site for designation from a scientific, evidence-based perspective (published January 2015)2. This process was followed with respect to JNCC and NE’s Tranche Two scientific advice to Defra on the designation of MCZs, however some changes were required to the process set out owing to the nature and scope of Tranche Three. As such an addendum was made to this paper in November 2016 to clarify how judgements made under Question 2A of the process will be followed in our advice to Defra on Tranche Three. MCZ Levels of Evidence - Advice on when data supports a feature/site for designation from a scientific, evidence-based perspective - addendum November 2016 (published November 2016).


If you have any questions regarding the protocols please send them to the .


1 This Protocol was developed in early 2013 in order to meet a Defra request for an assessment of our degree of certainty that the feature conservation objectives were set appropriately. More information on this can be found within the Protocol. Protocol I was developed by JNCC and Natural England and reviewed by an independent group of experts.

2 This paper was developed in 2014 in order to set out an approach for providing Defra with advice on the interpretation of MCZ evidence and data certainty assessments that follow the above Protocols. More information on this can be found within the paper.