Marine Protected Areas – known as MPAs – are exactly what they sound like: areas at sea where habitats and species are protected by managing and controlling the activities that take place in them.
Currently around seventeen per cent of UK waters are included in some form of MPA, comprising nearly 300 individual sites. Their success, though, depends entirely on their practical management. Right now, more needs to be done.
We’ve been working for over 20 years to secure an ecologically coherent network of MPAs in the UK: sites must be well managed, but they can’t be pockets of protection. UK seas need ecosystem based planning, which protects the wider environment while encouraging sustainable development. That means bringing together government, regulators, marine industries, NGOs and local communities to make it happen.
We’re about to start an exciting project focusing on MPA management and financing, called WWF SEAS. We’re aiming to help bring the UK's MPA network to completion, promoting top level planning, clear objectives, strong management and proper enforcement throughout UK waters.
We’re also working with all stakeholders on developing and implementing marine planning, which should take an integrated approach to the management of human activities, while taking the environment into account. Marine planning should guide how decisions are made for activities at sea – from fishing and shipping to wind farms and naval exercises. These plans are in their infancy, but we’ll be ensuring they set out a clear vision for the next 20 years, and what we’re going to do to get there.