Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) are a type of Marine Protected Area. They protect areas that are important to conserving the diversity of nationally rare or threatened habitats and/or species and those places containing habitats and/or species that are representative of the biodiversity in our seas.
Defra designated 27 new Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) in English inshore and offshore waters on 21 November 2013. This is a significant step towards creating a network of marine protected areas and an achievement for the conservation of important marine species and habitats.
For information on these new MCZs Defra have produced factsheets about the new sites.
Defra have announced plans to designate further MCZs.
The Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 (Part 5) enables Defra Ministers to designate and protect Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs). These are a type of marine protected area, which will exist alongside European marine sites [Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Special Protected Areas (SPAs)], SSSIs and Ramsar sites to form an ecologically coherent network of marine protected areas. Similar schemes are operating in Wales and Scotland and soon in Northern Ireland to contribute to a UK wide network of Marine Protected Areas.
Lundy Island in the Bristol Channel, a former Marine Nature Reserve, became the first MCZ in January 2010.
In 2009 the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) and Natural England set up a project to give sea-users and interest groups (stakeholders), from local fishermen to international corporations, the opportunity to recommend possible MCZs to UK Government through the establishment of four regional MCZ projects. In September 2011, these regional MCZ projects recommended 127 MCZs including 65 reference areas to JNCC and Natural England. The recommended MCZs cover approximately 15% of the Defra marine area (English territorial waters and UK offshore waters adjacent to England, Wales and Northern Ireland).
Natural England and JNCC, as the Government’s advisers on the natural environment, reviewed these recommendations. In July 2012 we submitted our formal advice to Government on the science behind these recommendations, the quality of the ecological data and our views on the overall regional MCZ Project process. This advice was considered alongside the regional project recommendations and did not change any of the outputs from the stakeholder process.
At the beginning of 2013 Defra ran a public consultation on 31 recommended MCZs which gave stakeholders the opportunity to comment on the proposals for site designation and the underpinning evidence, and provide any additional evidence on the proposed designations before they are finalised.
In order to create well managed MCZs in the right places it is important to have good evidence about the sites and the habitats and species within them. A second MCZ Advice Package looked at new data that had become available through the consultation and since the submission of the 2012 advice. The evidence received from the consultation, the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) and Natural England advice submitted in July 2012 and other recent evidence can be found here.
Following the recent designation of MCZs, Natural England has a statutory responsibility to provide conservation advice that sets out their conservation objectives and the operations that may impact on the features of the sites. Please see our improving MPA conservation advice pages for more information.
For further information about the advice produced by Natural England and JNCC please email: MCZinfo@naturalengland.org.uk
For further information about the public consultation and next steps please contact Defra: firstname.lastname@example.org
or visit the following websites:
The guidance and protocols followed by the regional MCZ projects, Natural England and JNCC are here:
(21 November 2013) The designation of 27 new Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) by Defra today marks a major step forward for improving the ways in which the marine environment is looked after.