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Highly Protected Marine Areas

Volume 735: debated on Wednesday 5 July 2023

Three highly protected marine areas (HPMAs) in English waters—North East of Farnes Deep, Allonby Bay and Dolphin Head—are formally designated from today, after Lord Benyon signed the designation orders for these sites on 14 June 2023.

Since leaving the EU and becoming a fully independent coastal state, we are seizing the opportunity to properly protect our most precious marine areas. Using our new freedoms, we are already in the process of introducing new measures to restrict damaging fishing activity such as bottom trawling in offshore Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) by the end of 2024.

Today’s HPMAs will complement the MPA network to introduce even higher levels of protection in our seas. Where in MPAs the marine environment can recover to a good, healthy state through managing harmful activities that damage the designated features, HPMAs will prevent all harmful activity to promote full recovery of the whole site to as natural a state as possible. They will contribute to healthy, sustainable and climate-resilient ecosystems that benefit both the marine environment and our fishing communities. They will give marine life space to fully recover, and evidence suggests that increased numbers or size of species in such protected areas may benefit fisheries overall over time as they spill out into nearby areas beyond the protected areas.

Our actions on HPMAs demonstrate the Government’s clear commitment to the UK vision for “clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse ocean and seas”; and to our international commitments to protect at least 30% of the global ocean by 2030 under the global biodiversity framework, which the UK spearheaded.

These HPMAs have been designated under the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009, and general duties will apply from today. The next step will be for the Marine Management Organisation to implement specific management measures for fishing and non-licensed activities within the HPMAs. These will be consulted on soon.

As announced in the “Environmental Improvement Plan”, we now intend to identify further suitable sites for consultation and potential designation.

The designation orders are available to view at