The Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 (Part 5) enables UK Government Ministers to designate and protect Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs). These are a type of marine protected area, which will exist alongside European marine sites [Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Special Protected Areas (SPAs)], SSSIs and Ramsar sites to form an ecologically coherent network of marine protected areas.
Similar schemes are operating in Wales and Scotland and soon in Northern Ireland to contribute to a UK wide network of Marine Protected Areas.
Lundy Island in the Bristol Channel, a former Marine Nature Reserve, became the first MCZ in January 2010.
27 new Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) were designated in English inshore and offshore waters on 21 November 2013.
The UK Government’s Press Release is here. NB: this Press Release also announces the designation of two further phases of MCZs over the next three years, and consultation on the next phase anticipated for early 2015.
Information available from Natural England is here.