Marine Protected Areas

Undulate Ray © Peter Tinsley

Undulate Ray © Peter Tinsley 

Marine Protected Areas

Protecting Dorset's marine environment

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. You can read the news of the new sites here and you can read more from the Wildlife Trusts here.

You can see a map here of all the SSSIs and MPAS in Dorset.

Discover how Dorset's network of Marine Protected Areas are made up

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.  These include South Dorset Coast SSSI, Portland Harbour Shore SSSI and Poole Harbour SSSI.

European Marine Sites (EMS)

This includes Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) and Special Protection Areas (SPA) 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. 

EMS Designated in Dorset:
(Click each one for Natural Endland's advice and site information) 

Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs)

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 waters 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. The announcement in May 2019 saw six more sites in Dorset added.

MCZs in Dorset 2019:
(Click each one for Natural England's advice and site information) 

History of Marine Conservation Zones

Tranche 2 
In February 2014 Defra announced a list of 37 further sites as suitable candidates for the second tranche of MCZ designation.  In Jan 2015, the government launched a consultation on 23 of these sites - none of which were 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 was too contentious.

Tranche 3 
In 2018 the government announced a six week consultation on the 41 sites proposed for the third tranche of Marine Conservation Zones. This final tranche is about filling the gaps between MCZs - making sure that all types of seabed and the full range of species were adequately protected and that there is enough connectivity between sites for the network to function. You can see the consultation document for Tranche 3 here.

In Dorset, six sites were recommended and in May 2019 they were approved and designated as MCZs. They are: Albert Field; Purbeck Coast; South of Portland; Southbourne Rough; Studland Bay and West of Wight-Barfleur. 


Marine Conservation Zones in Dorset

Marine Conservation Zones in Dorset