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UK Marine and Coastal Access Act


Marine and Coastal Access Act



Overall aim

To ensure clean healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse oceans and seas, by putting in place better systems for delivering sustainable development of marine and coastal environment.


The Marine and Coastal Access Act covers the following key elements:

  • Establishing the Marine Management Organisation (MMO),
    The MMO began operating in April 2010 and is the marine planning authority that delivers licensing and enforcement of marine legislation. A major function of the MMO is to deliver a strategic marine planning system that leads to more efficient, sustainable use and protection of our marine resources. A new streamlined marine licensing system will be more transparent and consistent across all sectors.
  • Marine Nature Conservation
    Powers to designate Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) that will be protected from damaging activities to conserve their features. On 21 November 2013 Defra announced the creation of 27 new Marine Conservation Zones in English waters which will cover an area roughly three times the size of Wiltshire. Plans were also announced to designate two more phases of MCZs over the next three years to complete our contribution to a network of marine protected areas. A consultation on the next phase is expected to be launched in early 2015.
  • Fisheries Management and Marine Enforcement
    Modernising inshore fisheries management in England through the creation of Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities (IFCAs) to replace the existing Sea Fisheries Committees (SFCs)
  • Migratory and Freshwater Fisheries
    Introduction of a new licensing and authorisation system for fishing activities giving the Environment Agency powers to make emergency byelaws to respond to unforeseen threats to fish stocks. It also brings in a new scheme covering the movement of live fish designed to better protect national and local biodiversity.
  • Coastal Access
    The creation of a continuous, well signed and managed route around the English and Welsh coastline
  • Coastal and Estuarine Management
    Join up existing sectoral policies and bylaws in the coastal and estuarine environment. This is to minimise conflict and to promote sustainable use through a system of Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM).

Source: JNCC (jncc.defra.gov.uk), Defra (www.gov.uk)

The Marine and Coastal Access Act (2009) mainly affects England and Wales. The Marine Act (Northern Ireland) 2013 was enacted in September 2013 which makes provisions for MCZs in Northern Irish territorial waters. Strangford Lough has been designated as Northern Ireland’s first Marine Conservation Zone. The Marine (Scotland) Act came into force in 2010 and introduces new powers that apply to Scottish territorial waters. This includes provisions concerning marine plans, licensing of marine activities, regulation of sea fisheries and the protection of the area and its wildlife.