Climate Action

UK Government announces new wave of marine protected areas

The UK Government has announced plans to increase the numbers of marine protected zones.

  • 31 May 2019
  • Rachel Cooper

The UK Government has announced plans to increase the numbers of marine protected zones.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove has created 41 new marine conservation zones, marking the most significant expansion of England’s ‘blue belt’ of protected areas to date.

Stretching from Cornwall to Northumberland, the new protections safeguard 12,000 square kilometres of marine habitat, an area almost eight times the size of Greater London. 

The ‘blue belts’ will protect species such as rare stalked jellyfish, short-snouted seahorses and blue mussel beds.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove said: “The UK is already leading the rest of the world by protecting over 30% of our ocean - but we know there is more to do. Establishing this latest round of Marine Conservation Zones in this Year of Green Action is another big step in the right direction, extending our blue belt to safeguard precious and diverse sea life for future generations to come.”

With 50 zones already designated in 2013 and 2016, the UK now has 355 Marine Protected Areas of different types, spanning an area nearly twice the size of England.

The Wildlife Trust welcomed the new announcement, saying “this historic move will help protect the seas around our shores.”

Joan Edwards, Director of Living Seas at The Wildlife Trusts, said: “Now we need to see good management of these special places to stop damaging activities such as beam-trawling or dredging for scallops and langoustines which harm fragile marine wildlife.”

Globally, less than 10 per cent of the world’s seas are currently designated as Marine Protected Area (MPAs), this is one of the most important ways to protect precious sea life and habitats from damaging activity.

Last year, the UK called for 30 per cent of the world’s oceans to be protected by 2030.