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...
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