Special Interest Groups (SIGs)

UK Marine Protected Areas SIG 



Modern marine conservation policies are thought to begin evolving in the 1960s, wherein a number of marine scientists began to propose methods of preserving marine habitat, a key approach being 'underwater reserves'. But it was not until the 1970s, with the creation of Lundy Island that any marine nature reserves were created. Marine reserves, now known as Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) have multiplied and can be seen across the British isles, with more being proposed. 

An MPA is an area of coastal or Oceanic water designed to protect and enhance rare, threatened and important species from the increasing pressure of human actvities on the seas. Our group focusses on a range of activities, particularly in contributing to Highly Protected Marine Areas (HMPAs), whilst responding to other related government calls for stakeholder contributions. 

We are representative of all interested marine parties, and is open to both members and non-members of the MBA. We look forward to helping the MBA advice and help to restore the marine environment for the future. 


Open Consultations: 

  • Highly Marine Protected Areas (HMPAs) 

The UK government is in the selection process of pilot HPMA sites across the UK, to increase the protection of biodiversity within existing MPAs, creating areas in which extractive, destructive and depositional acitvities are prohibited, as outlined by the JNCC. This comes as part of the UK government's commisioned report questioning if higher levels of marine protection can enable greater recovery of the marine ecosystem and potentially "spill over" into adjacent protected areas, known as the Benyon review. The government's response was positive and has led a governmental statement stating the beggining of the secltion process varied sites for the HPMAs, with a final list aimed for by 2022, The HMPA process is the current main focus of our SIG as the MBA has a significant input into the review process of MPAs.  

JNCC - Highly Protected Marine Areas | JNCC - Adviser to Government on Nature Conservation 

Benyon Review - Benyon review Into Highly Protected Marine Areas: Final report - executive summary - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) 

Government statement - Written statements - Written questions, answers and statements - UK Parliament 

  • UK Government 25-year Environment Plan 

The aim with MPAs is to create whole site based approaches for key biodiversity areas. The Environment Bill is currently in the report stage in UK parliament and stakeholders are invited to contribute in public consultations, that will allow introduction of more regulation and better management. 

Environmental bill - 19 August 2020: Environment Bill - environmental targets - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) 

Closed Consultations 

  • Blue Belt Programme (including the 30 by 30) 

The UK government programme to establish 4 million square kilometres of protected and managed oceans around UK overseas territories, driven by the 25 year action plan. And 30 by 30 in ther initiative, with 35 signatories as of January 2021, to protect 30% of the ocean within MPAs by 2030 through a "Global Ocean Alliance". The Marine Maritime Organisation launched a formal enquiry into 4 of Engand's 40 Offshore marine MPA sites, specifically on the bylaws in the Fisheries Act. 

Marine Maritime organisation: Marine Management Organisation launches consultation on four of England’s Marine Protected Areas - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)


Get involved and volunteering: 

Our SIG relies on volunteers to function and there are two membership options you can be involved in 

  • Core member: Who will be involved in, online, regular meetings (frequency to be discussed), and to communicate throughout the year to provide advice and evidence on the implementation of MPAs in the UK. 

  • Corresponding member: Who will be kept up to date with SIG developments, meeting outcomes and will be asked to contribute periodically to related queries. 

The group is still in it's establishment phase and so any involvement you have will be in the creation of an exciting SIG that will help to shape the MBA's involvement in MPA Policy. 

For any questions please contact: eoin.lyttle@postgrad.plymouth.ac.uk 

Meet the Committee: 

Chair: Eoin Lyttle 

Eoin Lyttle is currently enrolled in the MSc in Applied Marine Science with the University of Plymouth, with a keen interest in marine conservation and how research translates to policy. Eoin’s current research project is investigating trends between landings of target shellfish species and population abundances within Lyme Bay MPA and aims to inform both fisheries and conservation management. Eoin will facilitate communication through the Marine Protected Area Special Interest Group and ensure expert knowledge leads the discussion in any MBA evidence, advice or consultations delivered. 

Contact details: eoin.lyttle@postgrad.plymouth.ac.uk 

Further Links and Resources: 

The Government's Environment targets 

Highly Protected Marine areas: explained