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National context

In the past, the seas around the UK and Europe enjoyed relatively little environmental protection, especially compared to the land.
But the UK and European governments are in the process of extending the protection of our marine environment by creating a network of ‘marine protected areas’ – areas that have some level of restriction to protect living, non-living, cultural or historic resources.
In the UK, the network of marine protected areas – which includes Marine Conservation Zones – is required so that the UK meets its commitments under international conventions and its legal obligations under European directives.
The UK government’s vision is to “recover and protect the richness of our marine wildlife and environment through the development of a strong, ecologically coherent and well-managed network of Marine Protected Areas that is well understood and supported by all sea-users” by 2012.