Aug 9, 2016

MMO's Conservation Team Launch a New MPA Monitoring Programme

An MPA’s success is not just in the designation – it’s also how they are used and managed. To help with this the MMO’s conservation team launched a new MPA monitoring programme and they’ve just recorded their 100th inspection.


By understanding how the public are interacting with MPAs the MMO can make sure the right measures are introduced and also observed. So, last year they introduced a new system called MPACT. It’s a great new tool to help monitor activity taking place in MPAs. It brings together different data including sightings and satellite monitoring, from a range of sources including the MMO, inshore fisheries and conservation authorities and the Royal Navy.


The new inspections are an important part of gathering the evidence for MPACT. MMO marine officers have recorded nearly 1600 activities taking place in MPAs. These include recreational activities like jet skiing and surfing to commercial activities such as construction and anchored vessels to the fishing activities of potting and trawling.


As well as recording the activities taking place within MPAs, Marine Officers often enter comments about the wildlife they have seen whilst carrying out these inspections. A quick snap shot of these include:


230 swans in the Tweed Estuary Special Area of Conservation

puffins, seals and a sunfish in the Isles of Scilly Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ)

120 moored vessels and a man shore netting, as well as grey mullet, geese and dippers in the Upper Fowey MCZ

harbour porpoises in the Torbay MCZ

a crane and some tufted ducks in the Isle of Wight lagoons MCZ


At the 100th inspection at Whitsand and Looe Bay MCZ it wasn’t just marine life that was recorded – over 300 people were spotted on the beach within the MPA boundary, as well as a military vessel operating at sea.


It’s fascinating to see the diversity of activity within MPAs and these sightings really demonstrate how important the network of MPAs is to fragile habitats and species.  With every inspection that is carried out the MMO learn a little more about the pressures that these areas face. The data can now be used to help make better decisions about management of activities in MPAs to prevent damage to the habitats and species that they are designated to protect.


MPA inspections have been carried out all around the coast and marine officers have worked really hard to make this new area of work part of their normal routine. MMO says, "Well done to everyone who has contributed towards these inspections, they really will help improve our understanding of the characteristics of these areas, which is so important in putting in place effective management".


For more information on the MMO visit their website 

Solway Firth Partnership