Marine Protected Areas
Marine Protected Area (MPA) is a term used to describe "any area of intertidal or subtidal terrain, together with its overlying water and associated flora, fauna, historical and cultural features, which has been reserved by law or other effective means to protect part or all of the enclosed environment." (Kelleher and Kenchington, 1992).
In the UK, MPAs are set up primarily for the conservation of our marine biodiversity and to protect species and habitats of international or national importance.
The main types of MPA in the UK are Special Areas of Conservation (SAC). SACs, in addition to Marine Nature Reserves (MNRs) and Special Protected Areas (SPAs), are protected by statutory obligations. The UK also has voluntary MPAs such as Voluntary Marine Conservation Areas (VMCAs) and Voluntary Marine Nature Reserves (VMNRs).
Some areas of the sea and/ or coast are protected incidentally against damage or disturbance. Such areas include historic wrecks and the areas in the immediate vicinity of oil and gas rigs. There are also areas that are closed permanently (commonly known as 'closed areas') to various types of fishing activity.
See the interactive map on the UK Marine Protected Areas website.
Plans to create a huge network of MPAs around the coast of Scotland were published in December 2012: the Scottish Government is considering protecting 32,000 square miles of seas, an area roughly as big as the country.
The network is designed to safeguard the future of rich and diverse coastal habitats and maintain a healthy marine ecosystem.
The Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 included new powers to select and manage MPAs. A further four areas have been identified to protect dolphins, whales and basking sharks, along with proposals for black guillemots, sandeels and tidal fronts to enhance protection for seabirds. For more information on this click on this link.