Skip to main content

This blog post was published under the 2015-2024 Conservative Administration

Coverage of the review into Highly Protected Marine Areas

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Weekly stories

Coverage of the review into Highly Protected Marine Areas

Highly Protected Marine Areas would offer total protection for all species and habitats within their boundaries.
Highly Protected Marine Areas would offer total protection for all species and habitats within their boundaries.

An independent review into Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs), led by former Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon, was published today on World Ocean Day.

Recommendations from the review panel were covered widely in The Telegraph, The Times, ITV News, Sky News, The I, The Guardian, Yorkshire Post, Undercurrent News, Evening Express, London Post, Re News, The Packet, Warrington Worldwide. Richard Benyon, chair of the review panel, was also interviewed by BBC Farming Today, BBC R4 Today and Sky News.

The review called for the introduction of Highly Protected Marine Areas in English waters. According the independent review panel, these areas would enable a greater recovery of the marine ecosystem and enhance the government’s commitment to a national ‘Blue Belt’, which has already seen an area of 92,000 square km protected - 40% of English seas.

Key recommendations include:

  • the introduction of Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) within the existing network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) to allow for the full protection and recovery of marine ecosystems
  • a “whole site approach” to protect all species and habitats within the HPMA boundaries
  • potential sites should be identified on the basis of ecological principles. Once these are met, the selection of sites should seek to minimise any negative effects on stakeholders. To do this, Government should agree the identification and regulation of these sites in partnership with sea users
  • ‘blue carbon’ habitats are identified for protection during the HPMA site selection process to help combat climate change

Environment Secretary George Eustice said:

Our ‘Blue Belt’ of Marine Protected Areas has already raised the bar for marine protection and we are committed to the highest standards of sustainability for our seas that set a gold standard around the world.

That’s why we asked the panel to conduct this review and I am very grateful to them for their work. I welcome and agree with the spirit of ambition, which is in line with our 25 Year Environment Plan, and we will now carefully consider the recommendations set out in the review.

Chair of the Independent review Panel Richard Benyon said:

The sea has provided food, materials and recreational opportunities for thousands of years. However, human activities have significantly impacted these habitats and species, which we now know need greater protection.

Our review demonstrates that in order to deliver the protections our most threated habitats need, Highly Protected Marine Areas need to be introduced, and I hope that government will engage with local communities and stakeholders to more forward plans to designate these new sites.

Chair of Natural England Tony Juniper, said:

I welcome the recommendations put forward by the Panel. This review is an important marker of how we can use highly protected areas to mitigate the impact of human activities on the ocean, and support its recovery to a more natural state.

I thank the panel for their work and look forward to working with Defra as they consider how best to take forward the recommendations.

Lewis Pugh, endurance swimmer and UN Patron of the Oceans, said:

The coronavirus pandemic has shown us how important our relationship with nature is. The beauty of nature is that it can bounce back - but only if we give it proper protection. There is little point in having protected areas that are not pulling their weight.

The UK has some of the richest and most diverse sea life in the world. I’m excited that we may soon have a pilot programme of Highly Protected Marine Protected Areas in England, but this must amount to more than dipping a toe in the water.

I urge the UK government to show the same leadership as with their call for 30% of the world’s oceans to be protected. They must act urgently to strengthen protection, as in a few years’ time it will be too late to fix the crisis in our oceans.

Richard Benwell, Chief Executive of Wildlife and Countryside Link, said:

The panel’s work shows strong consensus from conservation, industry and fisheries perspectives: highly protected areas are essential in reviving the ocean. We urge Ministers to now implement the recommendations quickly and create fully protected HPMAs for our seas. These will help recover our seas for people, nature and climate and be a vital addition to the UK network of marine sites. This would set Government at the cutting edge of ocean action and reinforce its leadership role in the Global Ocean Alliance as it calls to protect 30% of the world’s oceans.

On World Ocean Day, this review was published alongside a report, conducted by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) on behalf of the government, which reveals that over half of Marine Protected Areas could contain habitats important for climate resilience. The report ‘Developing the evidence-base to support climate-smart decision making on MPAs’ found that over half of Marine Protected Areas contain habitats vital for the nation’s future climate resilience, and that 43% of MPAs contain habitats such as sand banks, seaweed and other plant beds that play a role in protecting the coastline from severe weather events.

These reports builds on the UK Government’s commitment to further advance ocean protection measures including last year’s designation of a further 41 Marine Protection Zones protecting species and habitats such as the rare stalked jellyfish, short-snouted seahorse and blue mussel beds. The Government is currently putting in place management measures for Marine Protected Areas, including seeking new powers through the Fisheries Bill, and through implementation of the 25 Year Environment Plan.

Today we have also announced that seven new countries joined the UK led Global Ocean Alliance, an initiative aimed at securing protection of 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030. There are now a total of 20 countries in the Alliance following today’s announcement. Germany and Italy are amongst the major new players to join, other joiners include Fiji, Cabo Verde, Monaco, Senegal, and Luxemburg.

Sharing and comments

Share this page

1 comment

  1. Comment by William Hughes-Games posted on

    Highly protected areas are certainly needed but reading between the lines, this program seems markedly unambitious. Fisheries is seen as an industry of low economic value compared to some other areas of economic activity and may be traded away to the Europeans in return for other concessions. It doesn't have to be this way. If properly managed and in the hands of the UK exclusively, the Economic Exclusion Zone of the UK could be a huge contributor to the economy.