UK MPA Stocktake


To monitor progress towards meeting their commitments, the UK Governments commissioned JNCC to produce a catalogue of UK MPAs and their protected features. JNCC has been working on this ‘UK MPA stocktake’ with the other UK Statutory Nature Conservation Bodies (SNCBs) to compile the necessary data and information.

The UK MPA stocktake aims to produce a standardised catalogue of UK MPAs and their protected features. This standardisation is important at a UK level because of the different approaches adopted within each country to identifying MPAs. JNCC is therefore working closely with the other SNCBs to ensure the stocktake provides a comprehensive and consistent picture of the UK MPA network.

An important first step of the UK MPA stocktake was the creation of a standardised UK-level MPA network features list. This list consists of EUNIS broadscale habitats relevant to the UK, OSPAR Threatened & Declining habitats and species and UK Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 (NERC) (or equivalent) features listed on the countries’ individual MPA features lists. This is essential to building an inventory at a UK level, to avoid duplicating the same or very similar features that have different names by virtue of the legislation under which they were designated.

These data are being collated into a purpose-built UK MPA database that will provide a central repository for UK MPAs and their protected features which can inform reporting on the UK MPA network.

There are six types of designation that contribute towards the UK MPA network:

  • Special Areas of Conservations (SACs)
  • Special Protection Areas (SPAs)
  • Marine Conservation Zones
  • Nature Conservation MPAs
  • Areas of Special Scientific Interest/Sites of Special Scientific Interest (ASSI/SSSI)
  • Ramsar sites


Some designation types are fully marine whilst others are coastal, therefore the first step in this process has been to identify which sites we consider to have a ‘marine component’ contributing towards the MPA network in the UK.

For SACs and SPAs, guidance  was developed in 2007 which sets out how to identify SACs and SPAs with marine components. As part of our recent stocktake work we have developed guidance on identifying which SSSIs/ASSIs and Ramsar sites contribute to the protection of the marine environment. In addition, an approach was agreed to identify which geological features of SSSIs/ASSIs are to be considered marine geofeatures.

Once the sites which are contributing to the UK MPA network have been identified, the SNCBs compile data on the formal designated/listed features and the equivalent UK MPA network features protected within them. In many cases where listed features and MPA network features are not identical or directly equivalent, this process involves translating listed features to network features, guided by the JNCC classification correlation table.

Further supplementary guidance was required by the SNCBs to aid the process of identifying which features should be considered protected in the UK MPA stocktake. This included broadly categorising the types of protection that features receive in MPAs.  Some features are considered to receive ‘associated’ protection whereby the habitat or species has become the focus of management because they are integral to another habitat feature that is the direct focus of protection. As these ‘associated’ features were not assessed as a principle feature for designation, it cannot be assumed that they are representative (viable, of sufficient quality etc.) and so guidance on what ‘represents’ a UK MPA network feature was also required.

Data collated to date through the MPA stocktake have been used to inform JNCC’s work on MPA network assessments and the collation of data is currently ongoing to capture the full range of MPA designation types listed above. If you have any queries about this work please contact JNCC on