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Marine & Coastal Access Act 2009

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Marine Conservation Zones will be a new type of Marine Protected Area.

The Act gives the UK Administrations new powers to help achieve the vision set out in the UK High Level Marine Objectives.

The powers include:

Marine planning

The Act includes a new system of marine planning that will cover all key marine activities. It will consolidate and explain the policies relating to the marine area.

The marine planning system will guide and direct decision makers and sea users towards a more sustainable use of the sea; ensuring a strong link between policy and individual developments and activities.

The UK Marine Policy Statement is the first part of the new system. The Marine Policy Statement sets out the policies that will help achieve sustainable development in the UK marine area. It provides the framework for preparing marine plans and for taking decisions that affect the marine environment. Marine plans will provide more detailed policy and spatial guidance at a country or regional level.

The UK Administrations have now formally adopted the UK Marine Policy Statement.

We will be responsible for developing a marine plan or plans for the Welsh marine area. The marine plan/s will set out our policies for sustainable development in these areas.

More information on the new system of marine planning is available on the left of this page.

Marine licensing system

The Act introduced a new marine licensing system, that brought together and updated previous consenting regimes. The Welsh Ministers are the licensing authority for Welsh waters (out to 12 nautical miles). The new system was introduced in April 2011.

We delegated licensing to Natural Resources Wales from April 2013. These functions were delegated under the Marine Licensing (Delegation of Functions) (Wales) Order 2013 (external link). Before this our Marine Consents Unit ran the marine licensing system.

You can find more information about the marine licensing system on the Natural Resources Wales website (external link).

If you have any queries about the delegation of marine licensing, please email

Marine conservation mechanism

The Act includes a new mechanism for conserving marine plants, animals, habitats or features of geological or geomorphological interest through the creation of Marine Conservation Zones. These will be a new type of Marine Protected Area. These sites together with existing management tools will help enhance biodiversity and promote healthy functioning and resilient marine ecosystems.

More information on Marine Conservation Zones is available on the right.

More information on the Act is available on the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs website (external link).