Highly Protected Marine Areas

Marine Protected Areas

Highly Protected Marine Areas

Urchins and brittlestars ©Paul Naylor

Help make Highly Protected Marine Areas a reality!

Our seas are under pressure like never before; decades of over exploitation, pollution and unchecked development have resulted in continued biodiversity loss and a degradation of the marine habitats. But there is a way to help bring our seas back to life!

Join us and tell Government that Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) are a vital component of our marine protected area network and they need to commit to an ambitious HPMA delivery plan within the year.

Yes, I'll take action!

Basking shark feeding on planton ©Alexander Mustard/2020VISION

Basking shark ©Alexander Mustard/2020VISION

What are Highly Protected Marine Areas?

Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) are a type of Marine Protected Area (MPA) which offer the strictest possible environmental protections.

That means that only non-damaging activities, such as swimming, kayaking and scuba diving, will be allowed. There can be no fishing, construction, digging, or similar. That means that these areas give nature the best chance of recovery. Our shallow seas, diverse seabeds and deep underwater canyons can be healthy, productive and full of life once more.

Why are Highly Protected Marine Areas important?

We need to protect our seas. Overfishing, climate change, pollution and development have given us unhealthy seas.

But HPMAs could help to turn this around. They can help us tackle climate change by protecting and recovering habitats important in natural carbon cycles. Seagrass meadows can capture carbon from the atmosphere up to 35 times faster than tropical rainforests.

The Government also has an aim of achieving a well-managed and ecologically coherent network of MPAs. Designating Highly Protected Marine Areas would significantly help to achieve that aim. Not only that, monitoring the recovery of those areas can then help us to determine how to appropriately manage the network of Marine Protected Areas in the future.

The Benyon Review and its recommendations

The Highly Protected Marine Area review was launched by the then Secretary of State Michael Gove on World Oceans Day 2019. The review’s advisory panel, including Joan Edwards, Director of Marine Conservation at The Wildlife Trusts and led by former MP Richard Benyon, were tasked ‘To recommend whether and how HPMAs could be introduced in areas of sea within the UK Government’s competence’. To gather evidence, information and views on HPMAs, the review has conducted a public consultation and engaged with a wide range of stakeholders through roundtables, meetings and site visits.

On World Oceans Day (8 June) 2020, Defra published The Benyon review of Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs). The report makes a wide range of recommendations to Government on how to introduce HPMAs into English waters, but some of the key headlines include:

  • HPMAs should be defined as areas of the sea that allow the protection and recovery of marine ecosystems. They prohibit extractive, destructive and depositional uses and allow only non-damaging levels of other activities.
  • That HPMAs are an essential part of the UK MPA network for protection and recovery of the marine environment and Government should introduce HPMAs within existing MPAs.
  • HPMAs should take a whole site approach, protecting all species and habitats within their boundaries.
  • Pilot sites should have sufficient geographic spread to cover nearshore, inshore and offshore areas and different regional seas.

The Wildlife Trusts back all the report recommendations and believe HPMAs are an essential part of the UK network for protection and recovery of the marine environment. We are now asking you to join us in asking Government to implement these recommendations as soon as possible and commit to an ambitious HPMA delivery plan within a year.

Read the Benyon Review