Marine Protected Areas
Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are areas of sea given some level of protection from damaging activities allowing marine wildlife within their boundaries to recover and thrive. MPAs can also have an effect beyond their boundaries as burgeoning wildlife populations spill over into the surrounding seas. Carefully designed networks of MPAs can provide even greater benefits, helping to boost the overall resilience of the wider environment.
Map of the Dorset sea area showing the various Marine Protected Areas
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A network of MPAs is made up of the following:
Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs):
These generally stop at mean low water. The Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 allows for the extension of coastal SSSIs into the sublittoral fringe or slightly beyond, where appropriate. There are a number of SSSIs with a marine component in Dorset, though the interest features do not always include marine wildlife.
European Marine Sites:
This includes Special Areas of Conservation and Special Protection Areas with a marine component. These have been restricted to areas already designated as SSSIs (therefore only up to mean low water), but the additional marine SACs, specifically to protect reef and sea-cave habitats, encompasses a range of fully marine habitats.
Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs):
A new type of Marine Protected Area created under the 2009 Marine and Coastal Access Act. MCZs can be designated in English or Welsh water and are intended to complement other protected areas to create a network of sites covering the full range of marine habitats and features around the country.
In 2013, twenty seven new MCZs in English waters were designated, following the recommendation from four regional stakeholder projects for of a national network of 127 sites. 31 out of the 127 were considered in this tranche and all three proposed Dorset sites were designated: Poole Rocks MCZ, Chesil Beach & Stennis Ledges MCZ and South Dorset MCZ.
In February 2014 Defra announced a list of 37 further sites as suitable candidates for the second tranche of MCZ designation, with the intention of filling “big gaps” in the current MPA network. In Jan 2015 the government launched a consultation on 23 of these sites - none of which is in Dorset. At the same time, additional conservation features for some exisitng sites, including the Chesil Beach and stennis Ledges MCZ and the South Dorset MCZ, were included in the consultation. Studland Bay was not included in the Tranche 2 consultation on the grounds that it is too contentious.
The Wildlife Trusts’ have published a report in advance of the Governments' plans to announce the third and final phase of MCZ designation. Public consultations for these areas will take place in 2017 and designation of the chosen areas will be 2018. This is the last chance to complete the network and really make a difference. This final tranche is about filling the gaps between MCZs - making sure that all types of seabed and the full range of species are adequately protected and that there is enough connectivity between sites for the network to function. More information on consultation process can be found here.
The Dorset sites proposed are South of Portland, Broadbench to Kimmeridge, Purbeck and Studland Bay. Read our vision for Studland Bay here.
Become an MCZ Friend
If you would like to do more for our marine wildlife, you can sign up to become a MCZ Friend to champion the network of Marine Conservation Zones being created around England. You will be joining other marine life champions around the country who feel passionately about protecting the sea and helping it recover to healthy Living Seas.