Marine Conservation Zones reach the next stage


We have previously reported in Nature News on the work of four regional projects to make recommendations on potential Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) to Government, and the work of JNCC along with Natural England to provide advice on these recommendations to Defra. Last week designation of the first MCZs moved one step closer when Defra launched a three-month public consultation on the sites. 


Cold water coral reef © JNCCMCZs are a national designation created under the UK Marine and Coastal Access Act, which will protect a range of nationally important habitats, species and geological features. Habitats found within the recommended MCZs include highly fragile maerl beds, formed of several species of red seaweed which create a hard chalky skeleton and provide a home for a range of marine life, and spectacularly diverse and colourful cold water coral reefs. There are also fascinating species of jellyfish and sea snails, beautiful sea fans and the critically endangered  European eel1.


The Defra consultation proposes that up to 31 MCZs are good candidates for designation in 2013. It is anticipated that additional MCZs will be designated in future years. Decisions on which sites to include in the first tranche for designation have been based on an assessment of the level of certainty in the scientific evidence and the balance between each site’s conservation advantages and the socio-economic costs. The consultation provides an opportunity for people that use the areas and members of the public to tell Government what they think about the recommendations, and to submit any new evidence they feel should to be taken into account before ministers make their final decisions.


While Defra are consulting on the sites, JNCC will be continuing our work to build the evidence base for recommended MCZs in offshore waters to ensure that at the point of designation, the site recommendations are based on the best available evidence. We visited a lot of offshore sites in 2012, as described in our offshore survey blog. Over the coming months we areMaerl Beds © Keith Hiscock expecting to receive final data and reports from these surveys which will allow us to incorporate additional information into site recommendations.


JNCC have also been busy over recent months updating the MCZ interactive map with information on the sites and the features that they have been recommended for. As information from the recent surveys becomes available we will be updating this map to ensure that everyone is able to view the new information.


For more information, please check the Defra website or contact


[1] Take a look at our Features catalogue for more information



Contact File


Hannah Carr

MPA Adviser

Tel: +44 (0) 1733 866937


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