The Marine Protected Areas network - what does it mean for ecologies and identities?

Image of Boats Ecologies and Identities is an Economic and Social Research Council funded research project based at the University of Bristol Law School. It is a socio-legal project looking at the legal form and implementation of the UK's new marine protected areas (MPAs) network.

A network of MPAs is currently being planned in the seas all around the UK to fulfil the requirement of Art 13(4) of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive 2008 . In England and Wales, the legal framework for establishing the MPA network is to be found under under part V of the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 and in Scotland under part 5 of the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010. The Ecologies and Identities research project explores these legal frameworks, asking what this new direction in conservation law means for people and nature, and how bigger issues like climate change can be integrated into the designation of an ecologically coherent network of marine protected areas.

Who is participating in this study?

Boat This study is based on three case studies of marine protected area designations in England and Scotland. It involves marine stakeholders (fisheries, conservation NGOs, recreational groups, marine industries) conservation bodies ( Natural England, JNCC, Scottish Natural Heritage) and regulators (Marine Scotland, the Marine Management Organisation and the Inshore Fisheries Conservation Authorities).

Who will carry out the research?

The empirical research will be carried out by law lecturer Dr. Margherita Pieraccini and her research assistant Emma Cardwell. Margherita and Emma are based in the University of Bristol School of Law.

You can find out more about Margherita and Emma by visiting our project staff page.

What is a Marine Protected Area?

Boats A Marine Protected Area (MPA) is a way of spatially planning the sea in order to protect certain habitats and species. In England, MPAs set up under the Marine and Coastal Access Act are also called Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs).

Not all activities will be banned in all MPAs though - some may ban some types of activity (dredging, for example) but allow others (such as crab-potting), and others may ban nothing at all, and simply prohibit future change.

As MPAs are a new system, there's still a lot of uncertainty as to who will be allowed to do what, and where, in the MPA network - and what this means both for livelihoods and conservation. These issues are going to be explored in depth in the project.

Find out more about the law and policy underpinning MPAs in the UK.

How can I get involved?

Boats2 This research takes three forms: legal and policy analysis, interviews with oceans stakeholders and workshops.

Interviews and workshops will be undertaken in three case study areas: the south east coast of England, the Scilly Isles, and the south west islands and coast of Scotland, stretching from Arran to Barra.

If you live in or close to any of these places and were involved in or are affected by MPA and MCZ designation, you can contact us to arrange an interview. Our details can be found in the Get Involved tab above.

If you don't live in one of the case study areas but would still like to share your thoughts on MPAs and MCZs, you can talk to us on the telephone, by email, or join the conversation on Twitter.