Independent Review Recommends Introduction of Highly Protected Marine Areas

An independent review, commissioned by then Environment Secretary Michael Gove, has concluded and called for the introduction of Highly Protected Marine Areas in England’s seas.

Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) would take a whole site approach and would ban activities that could have a damaging effect on ecosystems, including fishing, construction and dredging to give marine life a chance to recover.

The review panel, led by former Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon, recommends that the HPMAs sit within the existing network of Marine Protected Areas in England. Other key recommendations include:

  • “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 welcomed the report, saying:

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.