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

Marine Protected Areas


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.

As part of the start of the process, Natural England and JNCC have established a mechanism for third-parties to propose locations on ecological grounds they would like to be considered as pilot HPMAs. To support this, the guidance note is accompanied by:

  • a third-party proposals guidance document – this sets out expectations in terms of the information and data you need to submit for further consideration by JNCC and Natural England.
  • a submissions template – to put forward a location for consideration as a pilot HPMA, you will need to complete the template and return it with any supporting data to JNCC and Natural England by 31 August 2021.

JNCC and Natural England will consider the ecological merit of any third-party proposal submissions alongside own identified locations. We will do this by using the evidence standards set out in the guidance note. We will then recommend a list of locations, based on ecological criteria, to Defra who will work with the Marine Management Organisation and the Association of Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities to apply socio-economic criteria.

The Ecological Principles and criteria guidance note complements a wider suite of forthcoming guidance that will provide a comprehensive overview of the process and will be available via the HPMA webpage.

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. To enable third-parties to propose locations for pilot HPMAs on ecological grounds, the guidance note is accompanied by a third-party proposals guidance document and a submissions template.

Responsible organisation
Communications, JNCC pointOfContact

Limitations on public access No limitations

Use constraints Available under the Open Government Licence 3.0

Metadata date 2021·08·05

Metadata point of contact
Communications, JNCC

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