Today, on World Ocean Day, the UK Government has announced plans to increase protections for England’s marine habitats through a pilot scheme to designate marine sites in England as “Highly Protected Marine Areas”. The selected sites would see a ban on all activities that could have a damaging effect on wildlife or marine habitats.
The announcement follows a review in 2019, led by newly appointed Environment Minister Lord Benyon, which recommended that Highly Protected Marine Areas would have an important role in helping the marine ecosystem recover and highlighted other potential benefits of the sites, including increased tourism.
Highly Protected Marine Areas will take a ‘whole site approach’, conserving all species and habitats within their boundary to maximise protection of marine habitats and vital species. The government will develop criteria for identifying the sites and create a list of potential sites this year, followed by designations of a number of sites in 2022.