Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)

The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) is responsible for managing fishing and marine non-licensable activities in England’s marine protected areas (MPAs).

MPAs are areas of the ocean established to protect habitats, species and processes essential for healthy, functioning marine ecosystems.

The purpose of an MPA is to protect and recover rare, threatened and important habitats and species from damage caused by human activities. In England, MPAs are designated to protect specific habitats or species (also known as ‘features’) and have conservation objectives which state what conservation outcomes the MPA is designed to achieve.

There are 178 MPAs in English waters, covering 51% of inshore and 37% of offshore waters. To view all English MPAs visit our Explore Marine Plans tool.

Protecting MPA species and habitats will contribute to healthier marine ecosystems, and the maintenance and restoration of valuable ecosystem services. Ecosystem services are the benefits we gain from having healthy ecosystems. For example, the maintenance of fish and shellfish populations enables the natural environment to provide stock for our seafood industry which then benefits society through provision of nutrition and employment. Ecosystem services can:

  • support the healthy functioning of the marine environment
  • generate tourism
  • provide recreational benefits (such as diving and sea angling)
  • contribute to human wellbeing

We manage fishing in MPAs offshore of 6 nautical miles and manage marine non-licensable activities in MPAs inshore of 12 nautical miles. Our dedicated pages provide further information:

To ensure decisions on MPA management are informed by the best available evidence and a wide range of perspectives, we regularly request views from stakeholders and the public.

This is undertaken through a range of methods including calls for evidence on MMO assessments of the impacts of activities and formal consultations on proposed MMO management. Further information is available to help you understand the MMOs byelaw making process.

Consultations – fishing in MPAs

There are currently no open MMO consultations for managing fishing in MPAs.

Latest updates

We recently held a formal consultation for Stage 2 MPAs. This ran from 17 January 2023 to 28 March 2023. This consultation sought views on a proposed byelaw to manage bottom towed fishing gear in 13 MPAs. The MPAs are:

  • Cape Bank
  • East of Haig Fras
  • Farnes East
  • Foreland
  • Goodwin Sands
  • Haig Fras
  • Haisborough, Hammond and Winterton
  • Hartland Point to Tintagel
  • Lands End and Cape Bank
  • North Norfolk Sandbanks and Saturn Reef
  • Offshore Brighton
  • South of Celtic Deep
  • Wight-Barfleur Reef

This formal consultation followed the call for evidence on the MMO assessment of the impact of bottom towed gears on rock and reef MPA features held from 14 May to 10 July 2022.

Consultation documents are available on the Stage 2 consultation page.

We simultaneously held a call for evidence, between 17 January 2023 and 28 March 2023 on Stage 3 MPAs. This sought additional evidence and views on evidence and analysis of the impacts of fishing on seabed features in English MPAs.

Call for evidence documents are available on our Stage 3 consultation page..

What happens next?

We are currently reviewing all the information received during the Stage 2 formal consultation and Stage 3 call for evidence. Updates will be made to assessment and management documents where appropriate.

Where necessary, we will progress the implementation of management measures to ensure relevant MPAs are protected, whilst ensuring we deliver the appropriate levels of consultation with stakeholders. We will be sharing further updates as soon as possible.

Consultations - managing fishing in HPMAs

Following the designation of the first three highly protected marine areas (HPMAs) in England on 5 July 2023, MMO is proposing specific management measures that will support the recovery of these sites to a more natural state. The three HPMAs are Allonby Bay, North East of Farnes Deep and Dolphin Head.

As part of the byelaw making process marine stakeholders, partner organisations and fishers were asked to view and comment on the proposed management measures from 3 August to 14 September 2023.

This is engagement exercise is now closed and we will provide further updates on the next steps as soon as possible.

Consultations - marine non-licensable activities in MPAs

Marine non-licensable activities are those which do not require a marine licence and include a number of marine recreational activities. These include shore based activities such as bait collection and beach recreation as well as water based activities such as sailing and motor boating.

We manage marine non-licensable activities which take place within MPAs within 0-12 nautical miles. There is currently no live marine no marine non-licensable activity consultations.

You can find out more about the management of marine non-licensable activities in MPAs, including our voluntary no anchor zone in Studland Bay on our dedicated pages.

Published 13 March 2023