Marine Nature Reserves


Lara Howe

Marine Protected Areas

There are various types of Marine Protected Areas across the British Isles and the wider world, all designed to afford more protection to important species and habitats from various threats.

Why protect the marine environment

In recent decades there have been global declines in the health of the marine environment. Not only does this impact on biodiversity and the richness and beauty of the sea, it also reduces the economic and social benefits the sea can bring us. Threats to marine life include loss of habitat, invasive species, pollution, over-fishing and climate change. One way to address these threats, that has been used internationally, is the creation of marine protected areas. These areas of sea are protected from impacts, with the aim of restoring habitats and supporting sustainable fisheries.

MNR's map

Manx protection

Since 2018, the Isle of Man has designated 10 marine nature reserves, encompassing 10.8% of Manx waters. Historically many of the MNRs were closed or restricted areas, established for fisheries management and research, acting as marine protected areas to enable sustainable fisheries management.  More recently many are marine conservation zones.  The MNRs provide greater protection via the Wildlife Act 1990; all sites were re-designated on the 1st September 2018. They are all within the 0-3nm boundary of Manx waters, making up 51.8% of the 0-3nm area.

Ramsey MNR

Ramsey Marine Nature Reserve

Ramsey was first designated as a marine nature reserve back in October 2011 and was the first MNR for the Island. The area was selected after extensive fishing industry and public consultation, with the aim of supporting sustainable fishing practices and to afford greater protection to three primary habitats considered to be priorities for conservation under International conventions: horse mussel reef; maerl beds and sea grass meadows. These habitats are in need of protection because they are some of the most diverse and productive ecosystems in the world. Each of these habitats provide numerous ecosystem services, such as food and shelter for a wide variety of wildlife, particularly for juvenile fish species and scallops. However, they are also very slow growing and very sensitive to being damaged by human activities, such as dredging. The reserve covers 94.5km2, of which around half is highly protected, with each zone having its own levels of protection.

Ramsey MNR zones

Further Protection Needed


Cuttlefish by Alexander Mustard/2020VISION

Although great progress has been made on designating 10 marine nature reserves, there is still more protection needed. The 3-12nm zone around the Island currently is not protected, which leaves it vulnerable to damaging practices such as fishing and marine developments.  There are species and habitats, such as mud, yet to be protected.

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