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MMO prioritises six vitally important inshore marine protected areas for assessment and management

Marine Management Organisation has prioritised six ecologically significant inshore marine protected areas (MPAs) for assessment and management over the next year.

MPAs play a crucial role in the protection and recovery of rare, threatened and important habitats and species from the damage caused by human activities. There are 178 MPAs in English waters, covering 51% of inshore and 37% of offshore waters. 

MMO, in collaboration with other governmental bodies, is responsible for managing marine non-licensable activities (mNLA) to further the conservation objectives of England’s inshore marine protected areas within 0-12 nautical miles (nm). 

mNLA activities encompass a range of recreational pursuits, from sailing and motorboating to diving and snorkelling. This excludes fishing activity, which is managed by other agencies in inshore MPAs. 

Through evidence projects and engagement with Natural England senior advisors and regional leads, MMO has selected six priority MPAs for mNLA site assessment: 

View map of the six priority sites.

Michelle Willis, Acting Chief Executive Officers at MMO, yesterday said: 

‘’By identifying and prioritising sites, we have taken the first steps towards protecting some of the most important marine, ecosystems, habitats and wildlife that can be found around our coast.  

“Our next steps will include early engagement with coastal communities, taking a natural capital approach, followed by a rigorous assessment in collaboration with our partners to ascertain the impacts of mNLA within each MPA. 

“Once this is completed future management measures may be considered, ranging from voluntary measures to potential byelaws. These will be developed in partnership with local stakeholders and residents, who we want to enthuse with a sense of ownership over their amazing marine ecosystems and inspire them to play an ongoing role in their protection.’’ 

Find out more about MMOs management of marine non-licensable activities.

Additional information

MMO recognises the importance of local partnerships and community engagement, which plays an essential role in the successful management of MPAs. This can be seen in its management of mNLA in the Studland Bay MCZ.  

In 2021, MMO established a voluntary no anchor zone (VNAZ) with the support of the local community to protect Studland Bay’s valuable seagrass habitat from damage caused by boat anchors.  

With support and collaboration of the local Studland Bay Marine Partnership (SBMP), the area is benefiting from nearly 100 ecomoorings and new buoys marking out the area of the VNAZ on the surface. Evidence from MMO’s latest VNAZ review suggests that anchoring over the seagrass is continuing to reduce, which will support the ongoing recovery of this habitat. 

Find out more:  Managing marine non-licensable activity in Studland Bay Marine Conservation Zone - GOV.UK (


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