Natural England - Marine Conservation Zones

Marine Conservation Zones

The Marine and Coastal Access Act (2009) created a new type of Marine Protected Area (MPA), called a Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ).

MCZs will protect nationally important marine wildlife, habitats, geology and geomorphology. The Marine Conservation Zone Project concerns the selection of MCZs in English inshore waters and offshore waters next to England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Sites will be selected to protect not just the rare and threatened, but the range of marine wildlife.

MCZs, together with other types of MPA, will deliver the Government's aim for an 'ecologically coherent network of Marine Protected Areas'. This means the MPA network will be a collection of areas that work together to provide more benefits than an individual area could on its own.

The Marine Conservation Project

The Marine Conservation Zone Project is being led by Natural England and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) to identify and recommend Marine Conservation Zones to Government.

MCZ map 2011

Recommendations for Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) have now been delivered through four Regional Projects covering south-west seas (Finding Sanctuaryexternal link), the Irish Sea (Irish Sea Conservation Zonesexternal link), the North Sea (Net Gainexternal link) and south-east seas (Balanced Seasexternal link). The regional MCZ projects have worked with sea users and interest groups to identify these recommended MCZs.

Selecting MCZs

Natural England and JNCC provided advice on how MCZs should be selected. Advice on the process for selecting MCZs is set out in the Project Delivery Guidance: (1.08mb)pdf document. Statutory advice on the criteria for selection of MCZs within the Project areas is set out in the Ecological Network Guidance: (2.4mb)pdf document. Four groups of stakeholders, representing sea users and interest groups, used this guidance to develop their recommendations. You can view the recommended sites at www.mczmapping.orgexternal link or on the regional MCZ project websites. Next, Natural England and JNCC will analyse the recommendations and provide advice to Government. will use these recommendations as a basis for selecting MCZs for designation.