The UK has a coastline of over 12,000 km which contains a high diversity of marine life.
Just over 8% of these waters are Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).
MPAs are zones of the coast and seas where activities are restricted in order to preserve and protect the local marine life.
There are currently over 200 MPAs in the UK, and more which are voluntary.
- Natura 2000 Sites: these are Special Areas for Conservation (SACs) which protect marine habitats such as sandbanks, sea caves and reefs and species such as grey seals; or Special Protected Areas (SPAs) which protect groups of seabirds.
- Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs): these protect marine areas rich in diversity or that contain rare and important species. There are 28 SSIs in UK waters.
- Ramsar Sites: these are special areas of wetland, such as Upper Solway Flats and Marshes in the Scottish borders.
- Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs): these protect wildlife but also consider the needs of the people living and working in the area. Currently there is only on MCZ in the UK – Lundy Island – but more are planned.
Lundy lies off the North Coast of Devon in the Bristol Channel and it is special for its long history of marine conservation. The island was designated as an SSSI due to its important plant and seabird population. The waters surrounding Lundy support a rich diversity of marine life and unique rocky reefs which are home to grey seals, lobsters and many coral species.
In 1971 Lundy was established as the UKs first MPA. In 1986, Lundy became the first Marine Nature Reserve (MNR) in an attempt to offer greater protection to the region. In 2003 a No-Take Zone (NTZ) was introduced to prevent fishing, and the removal of any form of sea life.
The NTZ has been very successful and resulted in both increased numbers and size of crabs and lobsters (the main fishing industry) outside the NTZ. In 2010 Lundy was designated as the first Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) in Britain. Lundy is still the only MCZ; however, this is set to change with the introduction of the Marine Conservation Zone Project.