Make Highly Protected Marine Areas happen

Erin O'Neill By: Erin O'Neill
Date posted: 28 October 2019

Let’s make Highly Protected Marine Areas happen! That’s the simple message we’re sending the government with our recent campaign.

The marine environment is degrading. It is still amazing and inspiring and special, but the condition of many marine habitats is not good enough.

Sue Burton,
Marine Biologist

On very short notice, the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) have launched an independent review into how the strongest form of protection – Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) – can work in English and offshore Northern Irish waters.

We have a network of 355 Marine Protected Areas in the UK, and whilst these lay the groundwork for better protections in the future, they don’t offer a full defence against all fishing and damaging activities.

To get to this point we need Highly Protected Marine Areas.

The HPMA consultation will run until October 31st, and we’re trying to garner as many responses from MCS supporters as we can to show Defra that the public are very much behind these ‘gold standard’ protections for our seas.

This is something we at MCS have been working towards for a long time! Our ‘Marine Reserves Now’ campaign – calling for Highly Protected Marine Areas – started 12 years ago. The campaign culminated in a march to Parliament to deliver 100,000 signatures, and since then we’ve had only 2 HPMAs set up that measure less than 15km2.

With the government asking for the public’s opinion in this call for evidence, we have an open door to showcase the support there is for these special protections in our seas.

MCS supporters and marine biologists, Sue Burton and Kate Lock, have been taking action for Highly Protected Marine Areas since the very beginning of the movement. Every year, Sue’s family and Kate’s family take part in our Great British Beach Clean in September.

Wanting to see real protection of the marine environment, proper action on the ground to protect sensitive species and habitats and the creation of a space that could facilitate marine research safely, away from human activity, they began to start keeping a timeline of photos.

“What better way to demonstrate the passing of time, than to watch children grow up?” Said Sue.

MNR 1 Sam and Aran as babies supporting the Marine Reserves Now campaign

MNR 2 Sam and Aran in 2013 supporting ‘Marine Reserves Now’

MNR 3 All grown up: Sam and Aran supporting ‘Marine Reserves Now’ in 2019

“Each year, as the boys’ understanding grows, we parents find it increasingly difficult to explain just why we still haven’t got any marine ‘insurance policy’ areas.”

“The marine environment is degrading. It is still amazing and inspiring and special, but the condition of many marine habitats is not good enough. We can see that, as we have the benefit of hindsight and experience and looking back at the evidence, but we desperately want to fix it before they begin to notice too. How much longer do we have to wait?!”

You can show your support for Highly Protected Marine Areas until the close of the consultation on October 31st.

It’s our best chance to make the government sit up and take note, so click here to help us make Highly Protected Marine Areas happen!

Actions you can take

  1. Browse Marine Protected Areas
  2. Report your wildlife sightings

Did you know?…

To the shelf limits, Scotland has 61% of UK waters, of which 23% are now in existing or new ‘marine protected areas’

Over 500,000 records of undersea species and habitats have been collected by volunteer Seasearch divers