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Identifying pilot Highly Protected Marine Areas in English waters: Ecological principles and criteria guidance note 2021


In June 2020, the UK government-sponsored Benyon Review recommended the introduction of a number of pilot Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs). In June 2021, UK Government accepted the majority of the recommendations set out in the Benyon Review and made a commitment to identify and designate pilot HPMAs as a complement to the existing MPA network in English waters, with designation set to take place in 2022.

HPMAs are intended to be areas of the sea set aside for the protection and recovery of marine ecosystems. They will prohibit extractive, destructive, and depositional uses, allowing only non-damaging levels of other activities to the extent permitted by international law. By setting aside some areas of sea with high levels of protection, HPMAs will allow nature to recover to a more natural state, allowing the ecosystem to thrive in the absence of damaging activities.

Government will identify pilot HPMAs, based on ecological, social and economic criteria, to select locations that provide the maximum biodiversity benefits while seeking to minimise impacts on sea users. The first step in the process is to develop and apply ecological criteria to a long list of potential locations for pilot HPMAs, followed by application of socio-economic criteria. The purpose of this document is to set out how we will identify pilot HPMAs based on ecological principles and criteria.

Please note: the guidance note was updated in March 2022 (version 2) to reflect that the third-party proposals' submission process ended on 31 August 2021.

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Resource type Publication

Topic category Environment

Reference date 2021·07·05

The purpose of the guidance note is to set out how JNCC and Natural England will identify pilot HPMAs based on ecological principles and criteria.

Responsible organisation
Communications, JNCC pointOfContact

Limitations on public access No limitations

Use constraints Available under the Open Government Licence 3.0

Metadata date 2022·03·15

Metadata point of contact
Communications, JNCC

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