Who are the Berwickshire and Northumberland Marine Nature Partnership?

The shallow sea, estuaries and shores of Berwickshire and Northumberland are known for their spectacular marine life. Our local coastal and marine environment is one of the most important areas in Europe for marine conservation, providing dramatic intertidal and subtidal rocky reefs, extensive sand and mud flats, mysterious sea caves and sweeping inlets and bays. The rich marine life of the area, includes kelp forests, seagrass beds, colonies of grey seal, and a vast number of breeding and wintering seabirds. This importance is recognised by the designation of eleven Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in our inshore waters.

Originally formed in 1999, the Berwickshire and Northumberland Marine Nature Partnership comprises a range of nearly thirty organisations who are working together to manage the suite of inshore MPAs found between Fast Castle Head in Scotland down to the River Tyne in England and to raise awareness of their importance.

What is a Marine Protected Area?

Marine Protected Area (MPA) is an umbrella term used to describe an area which is covered by the sea and which receives legal protection in recognition the natural environment found there. This definition includes both areas that are permanently covered by the sea (subtidal areas) and areas that are only covered by the sea during some parts of the tide (tidal areas).

There are three main types of Marine Protected Area that the Berwickshire and Northumberland Marine Nature Partnership deal with:

  • Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) – nationally important marine sites designated under the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009
  • Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) – sites of European significance for their habitats or species
  • Special Protection Areas (SPAs) – sites of European importance for rare breeding or migratory birds

SACs and SPAs are sometimes also described as European Marine Sites.

This is summarised in the table below:

Types of MPA designation What the designation protects Underpinning legislation
European Marine Sites (also known as Natura 2000 sites) Special Area of Conservation (SAC) Protects habitats and (non-bird) species considered to be  of importance in Europe EU Habitats and Species Directive (Council Directive 92/43/EEC) Transposed into UK law through the Conservation of Habitats and Species Directive 2017
Special Protection Area (SPA) Protects rare and migratory birds and their habitats EU Directive on the Conservation of Wild Birds (Council Directive 2009/147/EC)
Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ)


Protect a range of habitats, species, geological and geomorphological features which are considered nationally important

Only designated in England

Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009

Please note that within Scotland the term ‘Marine Protected Area’ can also be used to refer to a specific designation (broadly similar to Marine Conservation Zones in England) made under the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010. However, here we use the term in its broadest sense to cover a range of different types of designation.

While the various designations which make up our suite of MPAs recognise their ecological value they are also put in place to help manage the sites and aid the conservation and recovery of marine habitats and species.