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UK Marine and Coastal Access Act

The UK has 20,000km of coastline, which is home to an astonishingly diverse range of marine species and habitats – many of which are in severe decline and urgent need of protection. Until now, there has never been a coherent approach to managing and protecting the UK marine environment – which would result in sustainable livelihoods.

However, the Marine and Coastal Access Bill gained Royal Assent on the 12 November 2009 and is now an Act. This means that for the first time in over 20 years the UK Government has a duty to protect our seas.

Protecting our resources
At the heart of the Act is a new marine planning system, which will enable us to set a clear direction for managing our seas and making the best use of those marine resources. Plans will set out accessible information and clear policies that industries can use when considering where and how they might apply to carry out activities, reducing investment risks and costs.

Coupled with this, is a simpler, more flexible and more streamlined marine licensing system.

Modernised marine management
A new Marine Management Organisation (MMO) has been created which will operate from a network of coastal offices and will deliver a modernised stream-lined licensing system.

Changes introduced by the Act are expected to make licensing more efficient to benefit many stakeholders, including ports and harbours, fishermen, aggregate dredgers and renewable energy developers.

Effective enforcement is essential to ensure that regulations and rules are implemented fairly. The Act creates a set of common enforcement powers for enforcing marine licensing, fisheries and nature conservation. It also introduces administrative penalties which will enable regulators to tackle offences in a more proportionate way and level the playing field for people and businesses operating within the law.

Fishing for the future
For fishermen and sea anglers, the Act introduces a suite of measures aimed at delivering a sustainable and profitable fisheries sector. It will mean more effective action can be taken to conserve fish stocks and the habitats on which they depend.

For example:

  • Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities will replace outdated Sea Fisheries Committees in England and will have strengthened powers to tackle fishing practices that cause unacceptable damage to the wider marine environment.
  • Further offshore, enforcement officers will have new powers to tackle IUU (Illegal Unreported and Unregulated) fishing on the high seas.


The Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 provides powers to introduce a new system to manage live fish movements; businesses involved will see a reduction in administrative burden by consenting to multiple movements, rather than permits for each and every movement as at present.

Marine planning will offer the fisheries industry the chance to have their say, alongside all of the other marine users, about how the seas should be managed, as far as possible, to meet everyone’s needs.

Tackling climate change
Our seas offer huge potential in our drive to expand the amount of energy produced from renewable sources to combat climate change, and real momentum is building.

The Act will simplify the consenting of wind, wave and tidal projects (of 100MW or less in output) by ensuring only one administrative process is used to consider all the marine elements of an application. This will help stimulate the sector, particularly the developing wave and tidal energy sector.

Promoting business and trade through our ports
Port and harbour developments present some of the most complex licensing and environmental challenges. The Act will considerably simplify the consenting regime by drawing up to five different licences and consents (under the current system) together in the MMO and putting them through a single consenting process. This should make it easier to plan port development.

Making a difference for small coastal businesses, recreation & tourism
The Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 secured wide support from a range of coastal managers, industries and voluntary organisations, who wanted to see the legislation making a difference. All small businesses will benefit from a more efficient licensing regime, from the certainty that marine planning will bring, and from increased leisure and recreational opportunities.

Marine planning will raise awareness of the activities taking place at sea, and will provide coastal communities with a real opportunity to become actively involved and shape what happens in the marine area in the future, and to explain the effects that activities will have on our coastal areas.

The coast is vitally important for tourism, nature conservation and wildlife. More than 70 million trips to the coast are made each year, with people spending over £1.4bn, which helps to support a myriad of small businesses on the coast.

The Act’s vision for improving access to the English coast will provide opportunities to boost economic prosperity in coastal areas.

Source: This information has been taken from Defra

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