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Help bring our seas back to life

A 'gold standard' for our seas

Highly Protected Marine Areas could be the gold standard of marine protection: the first of their kind in the UK. Please show your support. 

Help our seas recover with HPMAs

Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) would offer the strictest possible protections for the marine environment, giving nature the best chance of recovery. By removing all pressures (e.g fishing, sea angling, construction), our shallow seas, shores and diverse seabeds can become healthier, more productive and full of life once more. 

In 2019 an independent panel was tasked by the Government to review how and whether HPMAs could be introduced to English waters. Over 3,000 Wildlife Trust supporters responded to the panel's consultation, backing our call for HPMA introduction. 

The panel's recommendations have now been published - and we're delighted that these are in line with what we asked for. The headlines in the report include:

  • HPMAs should ban all destructive activities including fishing and only allow non-damaging levels of other activities e.g. swimming, kayaking, scuba diving.
  • HPMAs should take a whole-site approach, protecting all species and habitats within their boundaries.
  • HPMA sites should have sufficient geographic spread to cover nearshore, inshore and offshore waters and different regional seas.

The Government must implement the recommendations as soon as possible, and publish an ambitious HPMA delivery plan within the year. 

Without HPMAs a continued decline in biodiversity is certain. We will lose the opportunity to help our seas recover, and we may never fully learn what a healthy marine environment looks like - lessons that are critical to ensuring recovery can happen across other areas at sea. 

Let's turn these recommendations into action...

Show the Government you want HPMAs using our simple form. We want to gather as many people behind this, ahead of a meeting we are seeking with the Minister in charge in a few weeks' time. 

Together, we can ensure our seas can recover for good!


More about marine protections

The HPMA designation is a type of Marine Protected Area (MPA).

In May 2019, the Government announced the creation of 41 new Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) to complete a network of 91 MCZs. With the aim of protecting vulnerable and rare habitats and species, these sites added to the rich tapestry of MPAs in the UK. This was progress towards becoming an ‘ecologically coherent’ network – one that is large, and well-connected, enough to allow an array of habitats to thrive.

Well-enforced HPMAs could be designated across parts of these areas and offer the strictest form of environmental protection. 

The Benyon Review of Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) took place in October 2019. The panel has recommended that HPMAs are an essential part of the UK network for protection and recovery of the marine environment, and the government should introduce HPMAs within existing protected areas: vital if our marine environment is to recover.  

Read the full report here. 

Existing Marine Protected Areas are limited in their ability to restore habitats and wildlife because their remit to protect nature only extends as far as maintaining the status quo. In these areas, only some of the most damaging activities are prevented and even then, only in some locations. But in Highly Protected Marine Areas, all damaging activities including fishing, construction and sea angling dredging would be banned. This new type of designation means that nature could properly recover. They would set a high bar, against which other sorts of protected areas could be measured.

HPMAs should be designated in each regional sea, in both inshore and offshore in English waters encompassing a range of habitats so that experts can study how recovery works in different ecosystems. Monitoring could allow us to understand what a thriving sea-bed and restored marine life really means. 

How do we know HPMAs will make an impact? 

When bottom trawling was banned from Lyme Bay in 2008, we learnt that recovery in the marine environment can happen - and sometimes much sooner than scientists thought possible - with the blossoming of beautiful sunset cup coral and pink sea fans in the area. 
In October 2019 we submitted evidence to the panel which included:
  • A selection of well monitored HPMAs that are sufficient in size and number are needed to understand what happens when damaging activities are removed and how our seas can recover. In turn this will help us determine appropriate management for the rest of the Marine Protected Area (MPA) network
  • Highly Protected Marine Areas provide a higher level of protection than other types of MPAs - this means marine areas will be able to return to as natural a state as possible, with more marine wildlife
  • Highly Protected Marine Areas act as a natural solution to climate change in the form of carbon capture, whilst at the same time helping to conserve the animals and plants living there
  • Highly Protected Marine Areas have the potential to generate direct benefits through increased tourism and recreational activities while indirect benefits will improve people's wellbeing for decade

There's another world waiting beneath the waves...

Learn more about the wonder of the UK's marine world, and what we are doing to protect and care for it.  You can also join our 'Friends of' enewsletter. 

Add your name below

Show your support for stronger protections for our seas - we will send your message to Defra

Dear Defra, 

I support the recommendations of the HPMA independent panel of which The Wildlife Trusts were a part. Please implement these as soon as possible, and commit to an ambitious HPMA delivery plan within a year. 

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