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Marine Protected Areas

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are zones of our oceans, seas and coasts where species and habitats are protected from activities that are damaging or cause disturbance. This protection can cover the whole ecosystem from the sea floor to the surface. MPAs are places where marine species can thrive and regenerate.

Existing MPAs, and those that will be set up following new legislation, are essential for:

  • Healthy, functioning and resilient ecosystems
  • Halting the decline of marine biodiversity
  • Protecting the range of marine species and habitats, particularly those that are rare, scarce or threatened.

Why do we need them?

Our seas are some of the most highly productive in the world – they contain amazing underwater landscapes and 10,000 species including many of national and European importance that need protecting now and for the future. They help to regulate the Earth’s climate as well as providing oil, gas, food and opportunities for recreation.

Some human activities damage or cause disturbance to marine species and their habitats. Within an MPA, some or all such activities may be excluded. MPAs are needed to achieve and maintain clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse oceans and seas.

Marine Protected Areas enable us to:

  • Protect and restore the ecosystems in our seas and around our coasts.
  • Ensure that the species and habitats found there can thrive and are not threatened or damaged
  • Maintain a diverse range of marine life that can be resistant and resilient to change brought about by physical disturbance, pollution and climate change.
  • Provide areas where the public can enjoy a healthy marine environment, learn about marine life and enjoy activities such as diving, photography, exploring rock pools and coastal walking.
  • Examine the renewable energy potential from our seas.
  • Provide natural areas for scientific study.