Twenty-seven new Marine Conservation Zones designated


On  21 November 2013 Defra announced the designation of the first  suite of Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) in both the inshore (within 12 nautical Anemone at The Canyons © MESHmiles (nm)) and offshore (beyond 12nm) region around England. MCZs are a type of Marine Protected Area (MPA) and these 27 new sites will help conserve the diversity of marine life and geology found in our seas. JNCC welcomed the announcement;  these MCZs will further contribute to the emerging network of MPAs in UK waters. The provision for these MPAs falls under European and national legislation, contributing to the UK vision of ‘clean, safe, healthy, productive and biologically diverse oceans and seas’.  UK Government and the Devolved Administrations are  designating these protected areas  to contribute to an ecologically coherent, well-managed network of MPAs by the end of 2016 to fulfil international and European commitments.


Five of these new 27 MCZs are located offshore and will protect marine habitats ranging from coldwater coral reefs to diverse sand and gravel communities. The sites include Swallow Sand in the North Sea, which is the largest of the designated MCZs totalling 4,746km2, more than twice the size of any National Park in England. The Canyons MCZ has been designated to protect England’s only known cold water coral reefs which occur in the far south-west approaches. East of Haig Fras is located off the north Cornwall coast and is one of the most diverse sites designated to date and North East of Farnes Deep MCZ has had more than 400 species recorded within it.


There are geological/geomorphological features which are designated in two of the offshore MCZs. These are the Celtic Sea Relict Sandbanks within South-West Deeps West MCZ, which are among the deepest and largest shelf sand ridges of their type, and Swallow Hole in Swallow Sands MCZ, an example of a North Sea Glacial Tunnel Valley believed to relate to the Devensian/Weichselian glaciations. Our Site Summary Documents provide a more detailed description of the range of habitats and species found at each MCZ. 


Since the regional MCZ projects submitted their recommendations in 2012, JNCC has been working closely with Defra and external partners to improve the evidence base for the recommended offshore MCZs. The research project has undertaken additional seabed survey work to collect a range of data using many survey instruments. These include multibeam echosounders and sidescan sonar to record the depth, seabed texture and structure, and high-resolution digital cameras to capture pictures and videos of the seafloor. These additional data, pictures and maps will increase our knowledge of these recommended sites.


Respondents to Defra’s public consultation provided further information and JNCC used this data to provide updated advice on the offshore MCZs to aid their consideration of which offshore sites could be designated in 2013. This advice is now available on our website. Along with the announcement on the designation of MCZs, Defra also announced plans to progress two more phases of MCZ designation over the next three years, to complete their contribution to a UK network of MPAs. TheyMap of existing UK MPAs expect to consult on the next phase in early 2015. JNCC welcomes this important commitment and will be continuing to work closely with Defra and the other Public Bodies to recommend appropriate sites for designation. JNCC are presently reviewing progress towards the UK’s international MPA network commitments so that the next tranche of MCZs can primarily focus on any shortfalls.


JNCC has a statutory obligation under Section 127 of the Marine and Coastal Access Act (2009) to provide advice to public authorities to help their management of human activities in MCZs. JNCC will work closely with these authorities to develop appropriate advice that helps achieve the conservation objectives of the designated features. These advice packages will be publicly available in an accessible format to help everyone understand the conservation value of these important areas.


JNCC is also working with Scottish Government and Scottish Natural Heritage to designate Nature Conservation MPAs in the Scottish marine region, and are supporting the Welsh Government and the Department of Environment Northern Ireland in their respective MCZ projects. All of these national MPA projects will contribute to an ecologically coherent, well-managed network of MPAs.


All designated Marine Protected Areas in the UK including these new MCZs can be viewed on our JNCC UK Marine Protected Areas Interactive Map. You can follow the work that JNCC is undertaking through offshore survey on the JNCC offshore survey blog.



Contact File


Hannah Carr

Marine Protected Areas Adviser

Tel: +44 (0) 1733 866937


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