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Credit: Georgie Bull


An array of exceptional marine habitats and species can be found across the Southern IFCA district. From expansive mudflats rich in invertebrates that support thousands of overwintering birds to intricate reef systems home to rare pink sea-fans. In turn, the diversity of habitats supports valuable inshore fishing grounds which are fished by small-scale day vessels, all under 12 metres in length, and many under 10 metres.

The importance of the marine environment throughout the Southern IFCA district is reflected by the number of Marine Protected Areas we have. Marine Protected Areas, also known as MPAs, are areas of the sea and coast that are designated to protect marine habitats and species. They are one of the tools used to protect the marine environment and promote the sustainable use of marine resources.

There are many types of MPA around the world all of which vary by name, objectives and goals. The three main types of MPA, which Southern IFCA manage fishing activities in, are Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs), Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs).  Established under different legislation, each have their own set of conservation objectives and protect different species and habitats. Together they create a national site network of marine protection within the UK territory and contribute to the UK Government’s vision of “clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse oceans and seas”.

Southern IFCA | SIFCA | Marine Protected Areas | MPA Summary Infographic

Marine Protected Areas

Special Areas of Conservation & Special Protection Areas

There are 6 SACs that protect marine habitats and species and 6 SPAs that protect populations of birds in the Southern IFCA District. These sites were originally created under European legislation (EC Habitats Directive 1992 and EC Birds Directive 1992) as part of the EU’s Natura 2000 ecological network and were collectively referred to as European Marine Sites. Since the UK has left the European Union our SACs and SPAs no longer form part of the Natura network and are now encompassed under domestic law through the Conservation of Habitats and Species (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019. To find out more about changes made to the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations click HERE .

Marine Conservation Zones

There are 9 MCZs within the Southern IFCA district, designated under the Marine and Coastal Access Act, 2009. They protect nationally important, rare or threatened species and habitats.

Additional types of protected area in the SIFCA marine environment

Southern IFCA | SIFCA | Marine Protected Areas | MPA Timeline

Management of Marine Protected Areas

Under Sections 153 and 154 of the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 , and the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010, Southern IFCA is responsible for the management of fishing activities within inshore (0-6nm) MPAs and must take the necessary steps to ensure their conservation objectives are furthered.

Human activities are not automatically excluded from MCZs, SACs and SPAs, instead, activities are closely monitored to ensure that they do not damage or disturb the protectedhabitats and species. If an activity is not compatible with the conservation objectives of anMPA, management is introduced to apply restrictions. Restrictions can range from spatialclosures when a species or habitat is extremely sensitive to a particular type of fishingactivity e.g., seagrass beds and bottom towed gear. To seasonal closures, permittedaccess, fishing gear modifications or other fishing effort limitations.

Management can be introduced on a voluntary basis using Fishery Guidance and Codes of Conduct or through statutory measures in the form of byelaws. In addition to MPA focused management there is a range of complimentary fisheries measures in the district that support the management of fishing activities within MPAs such as our “Vessels Used in Fishing 2012” byelaw that greatly restricts fishing effort in the District as all fishing vessels must not exceed 12 metres in length.

Credit: Georgie Bull

How do we manage fishing in MPAs?

  • All fishing activities that take place inside an MPA are thoroughly assessed to identify potential risks to the conservation objectives of the site
  • Evidence is gathered using scientific literature and primary data collection to inform assessments and management options
  • Appropriate management measures are introduced if an activity is deemed to pose a risk to the conservation objectives of a site
  • Fishing activity is continuously monitored across all MPAs to ensure changes in level of effort or types of activity are recognised
  • The IFCA works with partners to raise awareness and promote the benefits of the district’s MPAs

Helpful links for more information:

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