127 Marine Conservation Zones recommended


In September 2011, the four regional projects that made up the Marine Conservation Zone Project submitted their recommendations to JNCC and Natural England for a set of new marine protected areas known as Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs). The proposals showcase recommendations for 127 rMCZs, including 65 highly protected areas known as reference areas, which once designated will compliment existing marine protected areas. The smallest recommended MCZ is approximately 0.09km located on the south Dorset coast; and the largest is located offshore in the far south west of UK territorial waters at a size of approximately 5,808 km2 - roughly 3.7 times the size of Greater London. This achievement marked the conclusion of the first phase of the project, which placed stakeholders at the centre of the decision making process.


Image from MCZ Interactive map © JNCC

The MCZ Project, being led by JNCC and Natural England, was set up in 2009 and split into four regional projects. Balanced Seas (south-east); Irish Sea Conservation Zones (north-west); Finding Sanctuary (south-west) and Net Gain (north-east). Since then the project teams have been working closely with UK and international sea users who have an interest in the sustainable future of our seas.


The regional projects carried out over 2,500 interviews and considered over a million sea users’ interests to inform their decisions. Each regional project consisted of individuals representing sectors such as recreational sea users, marine industry, commercial fishing and conservation; who spent many hours working together collaboratively to reach a best possible outcome. JNCC has also been working with international stakeholders throughout the process to help them engage with the project.


The recommendations can be seen in more detail on the regional project websites and the MCZ Project Interactive Map. JNCC and Natural England will now consider the recommendations and submit their advice to Government, alongside the regional project recommendations and National Impact Assessment this summer. A public consultation will provide an opportunity for people to comment on the recommendations before Ministers decide which MCZs to take forward for designation.


Short-snouted seahorse © Steve TrewhellaFascinating facts about wildlife and habitats to be protected by MCZs

Marine Conservation Zones won't just protect rare and threatened species but a range of biodiversity, habitats and geological features. Here are a few interesting facts about some of the many habitats and species that will be protected by MCZs once designated byCold-water coral reef © BERR Defra JNCC Government:

  • It is estimated that an area of mussel bed the size of a tennis court (400,000 mussels) can filter the equivalent of four Olympic-sized swimming pools of seawater in just one day.
  • Seahorses have been around for at least 40 million years.
  • Tropical corals are only found in shallow water because they have tiny plants living in their tissues, which need sunlight to survive. Deep, cold-water corals do not host these plants, so they can live in the permanent darkness of the deep sea.

View the MCZ Project features in our online MCZ features catalogue.


Further information on Marine Conservation Zones is available on our website.


If you are interested in finding out more about the progress of the Marine Conservation Zone Project you can read the last edition of the MCZ newsletter and sign-up to receive future editions.


There are equivalent projects to recommend new Marine Protected Areas in Welsh and Scottish seas which JNCC are also involved with. You can also find out more about these on our website: MCZ Project Wales and the Scottish MPA Project.


Contact File


Hannah Carr

Marine Protected Areas Adviser

Tel: +44 (0) 1733 866937


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