Protecting our oceans

Grey seal on the beach at Blakeney Point, North Norfolk

We support the designation and effective ongoing management of Marine Protected Areas around the UK.

Why does ocean protection matter to the National Trust?

We care about the coast. We look after around 780 miles of shoreline for the nation, making us the UK's largest landowner on the coast.

The coastline in our care includes rugged cliffs, sandy shores, salt marsh, and over 8000 hectares of seabed. Much of what we care for is intertidal habitat, which the RSPB has estimated has declined across the UK by about 15 per cent since 1945.

Many of the 240 coastal places we care for, such as Scolt Head, Brancaster, Marloes, the Farnes and Cemlyn Bay, are home to nationally and internationally important seabird and seal colonies that rely on adjacent waters as foraging areas for fish.

We want our visitors to be able to enjoy our precious oceans, and for our activities to not damage marine wildlife and habitats.

We use only sustainably caught seafood in our cafes and food outlets. Our rangers and volunteers take part in regular beach cleans. We’re helping to tackle pollution from nutrients and soil run-off by encouraging farmers to consider the impacts of agriculture on water along its path from source to sea, and this year have made major efforts to reduce our waste, particularly single use plastics.

What do we think about Marine Protected Areas?

In total, almost 190 of our places are next to or overlap with places designated as marine protected areas, and almost all the seabed that we care for is within a protected area.

In the summer of 2018 the Government consulted on England’s final tranche of Marine Conservation Zones. 

Designation of the proposed 41 new sites, and the addition of some species and habitats to existing Marine Conservation Zones, will greatly improve the coverage of the UK’s ecological network of marine protected areas.

Thirteen of the proposed new Marine Conservation Zones lie next to our land, including the examples below.

What next?

We submitted a response to Defra in support of designating all 41 sites, and the addition of the proposed species and habitats to existing Marine Conservation Zones.

We've also been clear that whilst the designations themselves are very important, the ongoing effective management of marine protected areas is critical to their success.

View of the sea and Old Harry Rocks at sunset, part of the Purbeck Countryside, Dorset.

Purbeck Coast 

The proposed Purbeck Coast Marine Conservation Zone would stretch along the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site, from Ringstead to Swanage. It would protect a range of species and habitats, including nesting sites for black bream, a popular fish with anglers.

A view of Studland Beach, Dorset


The proposed Studland Marine Conservation Zone would protect seagrass beds and seahorses. We've helped to identify future management approaches for this site through a workshop on environmentally friendly moorings that we organised last year.

 A boy crouches over a rockpool looking for creatures on the beautiful wave cut platform at Birling Gap beach

Beachy Head East 

The proposed Beachy Head East Marine Conservation Zone covers the waters to the west of Eastbourne and will complement the existing Beachy Head West Marine Conservation Zone, the management of which is actively supported by the team at Birling Gap. The new Marine Conservation Zone was planned in collaboration with fishing crews who use the area; it contains not only rich underwater reef-like communities, but also important nursery areas for plaice, herring and Dover sole.

A beautiful red sunset over the peaceful moored boats in Newtown Estuary

Yarmouth to Cowes 

Newtown Harbour on the Isle of Wight, already protected as a National Nature Reserve for its bird populations, would be included in the proposed Yarmouth to Cowes Marine Conservation Zone, which will ensure protection of intertidal and subtidal communities.

A lone puffin on a rock in the Farne Islands, Northumberland

Berwick to St Mary's 

The proposal for the Berwick to St Mary’s Marine Conservation Zone would cover 634 sq km and s designed to protect the eider duck. This would bring together existing marine protected areas along the Northumberland coast and around the Farne Islands, sites with which the Trust is already actively engaged in management, through the work of its rangers and volunteers.