Conservation and Biodiversity – Offshore Overview

Key Legislation:

European Union

Primary UK Legislation

For more detail on the Legislation relevant to this page, please use the following links:

Guidance Notes: Marine Strategy Framework DirectiveThe European Commission’s Marine Strategy Framework Directive aims to achieve Good Environmental Status in Europe’s seas by 2020. Defra are working with stakeholders to find the best way of achieving the Directive’s outcomes allied to the UK Government’s High Level Marine Objectives. Progress is documented in

Protected Species and Habitats

Derived from international agreements (Convention on Biodiversity and OSPAR agreement) a network of ecological coherent marine protected areas is being developed in UK waters. The MPA network includes Natura 2000 sites; SSSIs; Ramsar Sites; MCZs and Scottish MPAs; (emerging NI MPAs or equivalent). JNCC has produced a useful guidance document explaining the Different Types of Marine Protected Areas (PDF document) being developed in UK waters.

NB: The term Marine Protected Area is used as both a term to collectively define a number of different protected sites (as detailed above).  This should not be confused with the MPA definition as used within the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 where it is used more specifically to define a particularly type of protected site within Scotland.

The Marine Management Organisation have developed a Marine Planning Portal for England and Wales. The interactive map provides a useful tool for viewing the baseline conditions around the coast. See the MMO Planning Portal.

Other Guidance

These guidelines apply to any oil and gas survey or shallow drilling activity and describe the PON14A application process.

Note – these Guidance Notes are currently being reviewed and updated in line with 2007 amendment Regulations.

These Guidelines explain the requirements of the Offshore Marine Conservation (Natural Habitats &c.) Regulations 2007 (as amended) and where a Wildlife Licence might be required. NB: These guidelines do not include Scottish Territorial Waters; guidance should be sought from SNH or the Scottish Government for activities in these areas.

  • Guide to Marine Licensing (PDF document) – Marine Licensing In Scotland’s Seas Under The Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 and The Marine And Coastal Access Act 2009 (May 2012).

This guidance document offers advice in preparing and submitting an application to Marine Scotland Licensing Operations Team (MSLOT) for processing and to signpost sources of further information and practical help.

If a proposed project is likely to have a significant effect on the environment, an EIA must be carried out before a licence can be granted. The EIA aims to protect the environment and allow the public to play a part in making decisions during the consultation period.

Marine Planning: a guide for local councils

This is a guide for local councils which provides an overview of the marine planning system, including details on how marine planning and land use planning can be integrated.

Requirements for Consent:

Further information and guidance relating to the consent requirements for some of the most frequent activities which apply within the UK oil and gas industry for the protection of biodiversity interests can be found on the following pages:

See specific topic pages for further details.

N/A
See specific topic pages for further details.
See specific topic pages for further details.
Not directly applicable.
Marine Licensing:

The new marine licensing regime under the Marine & Coastal Access Act 2009 and Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 entered into force on 1 April 2011.

Braemar Pockmarks and Scanner Pockmarks SAC site boundary amendments public consultation A public consultation has been launched by the JNCC on proposed amendments to the boundaries of the Braemar Pockmarks and Scanner Pockmarks SACs in the northern North Sea.
Conservation 21: Natural England’s Conservation Strategy for the 21st Century This strategy outlines how Natural England will protect England’s nature and landscapes for people to enjoy.
Consultation for next phase of marine planning opens The MMO are asking for views on the first draft of the Sustainability Appraisal scoping reports for North East, North West, South East and South West Marine Plans here.
Draft South Marine Plan for Consultation The South Marine plan offers and evidence based plan suited to the economic, environmental and social needs of the south marine plan area. Information is available here.
Dungeness, Romney Marsh and Rye Bay potential Special Protection Area: comment on proposals Natural England is seeking views on the proposal to create a new Special Protection Area (SPA) marine site by changing the boundary of the existing SPA to protect important birds.
Environmental Impact Assessment Consultation This consultation is seeking views on amendments to domestic legislation focusing on areas in which Defra have discretion over how changes to domestic legislation will be implemented.This consultation closes on the 31st January 2017
Greater Wash potential Special Protection Area: comment on proposals Natural England and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee are seeking views on the proposal to create a new Special Protection Area (SPA) marine site to protect important birds.
Harbour porpoise marine protected sites submitted to Europe Five harbour porpoise Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) have been approved by the relevant UK governments and following submission to Europe on the 31st January 2017 are now considered candidate SACs (cSACs).
Harbour Porpoise Protection The Inner Hebrides and Minches Special Area of Conservation has been designated to protect the harbour porpoise, a European Protected Species.
Irish Sea Front marine potential Special Protection Area A consultation has been launched by the JNCC on the Irish Sea Front marine potential Special Protection Area (pSPA). The area is an important foraging area for breeding Manx shearwaters.  The consultation ends on the 20th April 2017.

Key Organisations:

Key organisations involved in protection and enhancement of biodiversity include:

Consultation launched on English marine SPA proposals

Natural England and JNCC launched consultations on another six proposed marine Special Protection Areas in English territorial waters and UK offshore waters around England on the 19th January 2016. The consultation will run until 21st April 2016.

Offshore MPA Site Information Centres now live

SICs are a one-stop-shop for all relevant information on offshore MPAs. They include detailed sections on: • The site and its protected features, complete with an interactive image gallery • Evidence underpinning the protected features present at a site • Conservation objectives and advice on operations • JNCC’s understanding of activities taking place within the site • Information on site management There are also sections to house information on results of monitoring and assessment studies as these become available. SICs are of use to industry, regulators, competent authorities, academics, conservationists and everyone who is interested in marine life. They are available via our marine protected area homepage . Simply click on a region in the map to bring up available SICs for that area. Alternatively, you can open up a navigation page for all SICs using our offshore MPAs page.

New marine draft Special Protection Areas being considered by Scottish Government

The draft SPAs that are being considered have been identified based on many years of research on marine birds carried out largely by JNCC. These include two locations which are primarily in offshore waters (beyond 12 nautical miles from coast) where JNCC has the advisory role, and twelve locations in inshore waters (up to 12 nautical miles) where Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) leads on advice. The offshore locations are in the seas around St Kilda and Foula and support a combined seven species of seabird in important numbers, including Northern gannet (almost 2/3rd of the world population breed in Scotland), and the iconic puffin.

Wild Salmon Conservation

Following extensive consultation Environment Minister Aileen McLeod has confirmed a number of changes to regulate the killing of wild salmon in Scotland. The measures will come into force on April 1. Key aspects are:• Killing outwith estuary limits will be prohibited for three years due to the mixed stock nature of the fishery and limited data on the composition of the catch • The killing of Atlantic salmon in inland waters will be managed on an annual basis by categorising fishery districts by their conservation status • Requirement for a Conservation Plan irrespective of the conservation statusThe new regulations will take effect from April 1, 2016, running on immediately from the existing spring conservation regulations which conclude on March 31.

OSPAR’s Network of Marine Protected Areas

Since 2005, all 12 Contracting Parties (CPs) bordering the North-East Atlantic have nominated sites to the OSPAR Network of Marine Protected Areas (MPA) both in their national waters as well as collectively in areas beyond national jurisdiction. By the end of 2015, the network comprised 423 MPAs with a total surface area of 789,125 km2 or 5.8 % of the OSPAR Maritime Area.

Liverpool Bay / Bae Lerpwl Special Protection Area extension: comment on proposals Natural England, Joint Nature Conservation Committee and Natural Resources Wales are seeking views on proposed changes to Liverpool Bay / Bae Lerpwl Special Protection Area (SPA).
Loch Sunart to the Sound of Jura Marine Conservation Order SSI 2016/90 This Order will come into force on 23rd March 2016 and will affect Scotland only. The primary legislation is the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010. The seabed and subsoil and all of the water covering the seabed within the Loch Sunart to the Sound of Jura Marine Protected Area (MPA) are protected by this suborder. Fishing gear must not be deployed within the protected area. This Order revokes the Inshore Fishing (Prohibited Methods of Fishing (Firth of Lorn) (No. 2) Order SSI 2007/240.General information is available here.
Marine Conservation Plans The Marine Conservation Plans consultation has concluded and the outcome documents and decisions are now available here.
Marine Conservation Zones:

The first Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) were established in 2013 under the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009, with further MCZs planned for establishment by 2017. Twenty-seven sites were designated within the Defra marine area, five of which are offshore.

Defra have published a PDF document outlining plans for the second tranche of MCZs and sites being considered as candidates.

Marine Conservation Zones: Offshore Brighton Information on the Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) designation at Offshore Brighton in the south east of England has been released by DECC, DEFRA, Natural England and JNCC. This MCZ was announced on the 17th January 2016 and is a deep water site in the mid English Channel (link here).
Marine Conservation Zones: Offshore Overfalls Information on the Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) designation at Offshore Overfalls in the south east of England has been released by DECC, DEFRA, Natural England and JNCC. This MCZ was announced on the 17th January 2016 and is an offshore site located approximately 18 km east of the Isle of Wight (link here).
Marine Management Organisation – Marine protected areas (June 2014):(applied to England only) The Marine Management Organisation has produced a table providing a high-level view for all European marine sites in English waters and shows any management actions in the sites. Click here for more information.
Marine Protected Areas: strategic management table The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) have published a high level view of European marine sites and the first tranche of Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) in English waters, including some current actions on site management here.
MMO publishes new marine evidence report:

The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) reports on co-location were published in May 2013. Both publications are part of the MMO’s work to identify and fill gaps in knowledge that marine planners, regulators and users currently face.

The co-location report (Evaluation of the potential for co-location of activities in marine plan areas) reviews theoretical and practical examples of co-location. It presents a matrix that enables a high-level screen of the potential for activities to co-locate, primarily focusing on physical compatibility and the levels of management required facilitating successful co-location. It also proposes a framework to assess socio-economic considerations of co-location.

The report is the first step in on-going work, co-ordinated by the MMO, that will enable practical application of co-location principles within marine plans, incorporating social, economic and environmental considerations, enabling a more effective use of our marine space and resources.

New marine draft Special Protection Areas being considered by Scottish Government:

The draft SPAs that are being considered have been identified based on many years of research on marine birds carried out largely by JNCC.

New Marine Protected Areas designated to help contribute towards safeguarding Scotland’s seas: It was announced on 24 July 2014 that 30 MPAs have been designated under the Marine (Scotland) Act and the UK Marine and Coastal Access Act. These will be incorporated into the National Marine Plan and represented in National Marine Plan interactive alongside existing protected areas. More information can be found on the JNCC website and the Scottish Government.
OSPAR Intermediate Assessment 2017 The OSPAR Commission has launched an Intermediate Assessment on the state of the north-east Atlantic marine environment and the pressures resulting from marine activities.
Review of marine biodiversity assessment obligations in the UK (2014):

JNCC Report No: 497

Review of marine biodiversity assessment obligations in the UK. This paper investigates and analyses several national and international legislative and policy instruments, including obligations to assess biodiversity in both Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and the wider environment.

Solway Firth potential Special Protection Area: comment on proposals Natural England and Scottish Natural Heritage are seeking views on the proposal to extend an existing Special Protection Area (SPA) to create the Solway Firth SPA to protect important birds.
Ten Year Health Check for UK’s most important bird sites The JNCC has submitted a review of the important UK bird species status with respect to the Special Protection Areas (SPAs) designated to protect them.
The East Inshore and East Offshore Marine Plans (April 2014)(applies to England only)

The first marine plans for England were published on 2 April 2014. The East Inshore and East Offshore Marine Plans provide guidance for sustainable development in English waters, and cover the coast and seas from Flamborough Head to Felixstowe.Marine plans will inform and guide decisions on development in marine and coastal areas, while conserving and enhancing the environment and recognising leisure uses too. This should reduce costs and increase certainty for developers, boosting economic and employment benefits for coastal communities and beyond.

The OSPAR Data and Information Management System (ODIMS) The OSPAR Data and Information Management System (ODIMS), is now live. ODIMS is OSPAR’s one-stop online geoportal providing access to OSPAR data and associated metadata.  It is available here.
Wester Ross Marine Conservation Order SSI 2016/88

This Order will come into force on 23 March 2016 and applies to Scotland only. The primary legislation is the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010. The seabed and subsoil and all of the water covering the seabed within the Wester Ross MPA are protected by this suborder. Fishing gear must not be deployed within the protected area (exceptions apply). This Order revokes the Wester Ross Marine Conservation Order SSI 2015/302 and amends the Inshore Fishing (prohibition of Fishing and Fishing Methods) (Scotland) Order SSI 2004/276.General information is available here.

Wildlife Licensing: comment on new policies for European Protected Species

Natural England is seeking views on whether four new policies could be permitted under licence to benefit European Protected species whilst improving flexibility for development (link here).Consultation document is available here.