Frequently Asked Questions

On this page you will find a series of answers to Frequently Asked Questions.  If you have a question which is not answered through the information you find on the website, please contact the Project Team via the Contact Us page.

What are Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) and Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)?

The term Marine Protected Area (MPA) has been used to describe a wide range of marine areas which have some level of restriction to protect living, non-living, cultural and/or historic resources.

The MPAs that Balanced Seas will be recommending are called Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs); these sites are a requirement under the Marine and Coastal Access Act which received Royal Assent on 11th November 2009.

It is important to realise that several types of MPA already exist in England; these include Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) for habitats of European importance, Special Protection Areas (SPAs) for birds, Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) for nationally important habitats and species, and Ramsar sites for wetlands of international importance. Together with MCZs, these existing protected sites will help to form a UK wide network of MPAs.

Our aim for MCZs is to conserve ecosystems and biodiversity, and contribute to an ecologically coherent network whilst minimising the economic and social impacts. This can only be achieved through the active participation of stakeholders throughout the south-east. Stakeholders have the opportunity to be involved in identifying potential MCZs and developing the conservation objectives for sites (which will dictate the level of protection afforded to their features designated within each MCZ).

Balanced Seas recognises that the process for selecting Natura 2000 sites (also known as European Marine Sites) does not allow stakeholder engagement and participation in designating sites. That is why the approach we are taking for MCZs is so different.

Where are MCZs going to be located and who will decide this?

Lundy is currently the only MCZ in England. It became an MCZ through a special provision in the Marine and Coastal Access Act.

The Balanced Seas Regional Stakeholder Group (RSG) represents the range of stakeholder interests in the south-east and is responsible for recommending MCZs for the south-east area. These recommendations will be submitted to Natural England and the JNCC on 31 August 2011and then to Defra where a public consultation on the whole English Network  will be delivered. A list of sector representatives on the RSG is available on the RSG Members page.
In planning MCZs, the RSG must meet the Ecological Network Guidance (ENG) set out by Natural England and the JNCC. The RSG will take socio-economic interests into account so as to minimise negative impacts to people where possible.
The work of the RSG in planning MCZs is documented through Progress Reports. The RSG will submit three progress reports to the Science Advisory Panel for feedback before their final recommendations are submitted. In addition to these, after each meeting of the RSG, a report will document the discussions which have been held by the RSG. All reports are available on the Resources page.

Is Balanced Seas dealing with all types of MPA?

No, Balanced Seas will only be recommending the location and conservation objectives of Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs).  Whilst recommendations for MCZs are being considered by Balanced Seas, additional marine Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs) will be identified, consulted on and designated through a separate process run by Natural England and the JNCC. European legislation requires these sites to be identified on a purely scientific basis so the public consultation surrounding these sites will be focussed on the science that the site selection is based upon.  The RSG will, however, take into account the location of existing and proposed SACs and SPAs and the benefits they already provide to the marine environment.

Will MCZs be no take zones?

Not all MCZs will be 'no take' zones. Some MCZs will be multi-use areas where many activities including less damaging fishing activities will be allowed to continue. Other restrictions could include no anchor areas or new speed limits. There is no presumption that any particular human activity will be restricted.

Any restrictions placed on an MCZ will be decided on a site by site basis, and will depend on the species and habitats for which a site is designated.
In some MCZs, reference areas will be identified and within these all damaging activities and human disturbance will be prohibited. These are likely to be in the minority as opposed to the majority. The Ecological Network Guidance states that at least one reference area will need to be identified for each habitat and species listed in the Guidance. Such sites might play an important role in conserving biodiversity or improving our understanding of the marine environment by providing control areas unaffected by direct human activities. 

How will new Marine Conservation Zones affect existing Marine Protected Areas?

Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) are intended to complement the existing Marine Protected Area (MPA) designations, therefore, the protection measures of European sites, and Ramsar sites will not change. There may however be circumstances where MCZ and European designations fully or partially overlap to protect different features. When combined with the new MCZs developed by the Balanced Seas planning process, they will form a national, ecologically coherent MPA network by 2012.

It is important for stakeholders to realise that more Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs) have recently been introduced, which will complement the existing Natura 2000 sites (also known as European Marine Sites).  The identification work for further Natura 2000 sites is undertaken by the Statutory Nature Conservation Bodies (i.e. Natural England and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) and does not form part of the work of Balanced Seas. European law prohibits taking socio-economic considerations into account when deciding the location or boundaries of these sites. Balanced Seas has no influence over the location of proposed European Marine Sites.