Marine Protected Areas

What are Marine Protected Areas?

Any site at sea that has been set up to protect marine species and habitats is known as a Marine Protected Area (MPA). This is an umbrella term for any part of the marine environment that is safeguarded to some degree for its biodiversity, natural or cultural resources.
A simple way to protect an area is by managing the activities that take place there. Measures can range from restricting all exploitative and damaging human activities, to allowing some of those that have a lesser impact on the marine environment within it. Protection measures typically involve restricting or zoning specific types of activity.
Balanced Sea’s role is to design a network of Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) that will form a  part of a wider network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). MCZs are a new national designation which has been introduced through the Marine and Coastal Access Act. The wider network of MPAs will be made up of new MCZs as well as other existing designations such as European Marine Sites (SACs and SPAs) and Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs).

What is the justification for Marine Protected Areas?

An MPA aims to create an area in which natural processes and productivity are restored. The marine environment provides an array of important ecosystem goods and services, including regulating the earth's climate, recreation, nutrient cycling and provision of food and raw materials. Unfortunately our seas are vulnerable to a range of threats such as climate change, pollution and habitat loss and degradation, all of which can have a negative impact on the important goods and services.
By reducing damaging activities in an area, an MPA can allow natural recovery of marine species and can restore balance within the food web and the larger ecosystem. Additionally, MPAs can safeguard our seas for future generations by allowing for healthy, functioning and resilient ecosystems. There is strong scientific evidence that this can be achieved in tropical seas, and recent studies in temperate waters are promising; one example is at George's bank in Maine, USA, where after six years of closure there has been an increase in fish biomass by as much as eight fold.