Marine protected areas
Find out about how our seas and their habitats and species are protected
Our seas are home to some of the best marine wildlife in Europe, with a wide diversity of underwater habitats and species.
What are marine protected areas?
Marine protected areas are parts of the sea identified for the protection of marine habitats and species. They cover a wide diversity of marine wildlife, including rare and sensitive habitats and species.
Our seas also support a wide variety of human activities. Our marine protected areas help us identify where pressure from these activities may need more careful management.
By protecting our marine environment now, we can ensure that our seas will continue to contribute to our society for generations to come.
Marine protected areas in Wales include:
- Sites of European and international importance such as, Special Areas of Conservation, Special Protection Areas and Ramsar sites
- Skomer Marine Conservation Zone
- Sites of Special Scientific Interest that cover the sea shore or sea
How are the marine areas protected?
To ensure our marine sites are protected, restrictions, conditions or guidance may apply to some activities in marine protected areas.
- View details of marine licences
- View details of fishing licences
- Advice to marine developers and planners (regulation 37)
Which areas of the Welsh seas are protected?
There are 139 sites in Welsh waters made up of:
- 13 Special Protection Areas (SPAs)
- 15 Special Areas of Conservation (SACs)
- 1 Marine Conservation Zone (MCZs)
- 107 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs)
- 3 Ramsar sites
The network of marine protected areas
The marine protected areas in Wales form part of a network of sites throughout UK waters. In Wales, we are also seeking to manage all our sites together as a network. We work with partners across Wales and the UK to plan how we manage the network to help achieve good environmental status under the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive.
Future plans for protected areas in Wales
We are working with the Welsh Government and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee to assess the existing network of 139 marine protected areas in Welsh waters. Should any gaps in the network be identified we will then consult with stakeholders to find the most appropriate way to protect any further marine habitats and species in Wales.