Herring gull (larus argentatus) perched on rock showing habitat, South Stack RSPB reserve, Wales

Protecting marine wildlife and seabirds

Legislation has resulted in protection for a number of marine areas across the UK.

Around the UK


In England, there are 50 Marine Conservation Zones (MCZ) designated to protect a range of species. Unfortunately there are no sites designated for seabirds or sandeels as yet, but we’re working with government and with other environment LINK members to improve the current situation.

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland passed its Marine Act in 2013. As an existing Marine Nature Reserve, Strangford Lough automatically became Northern Ireland’s first MCZ. In 2016, Northern Ireland designated four MCZs, including one site for Black Guillemot, Rathlin Island. We’re working with the Northern Ireland Assembly, LINK partners and campaigning to ensure other sites for seabirds are designated to safeguard the future of the thousands of birds which breed in Northern Ireland every year.


Scotland has 30 Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) designated for a range of species and habitats. Six of these MPAs are specifically for black guillemots and three for sandeels. Fourteen draft SPAs have been identified to protect a range of seabirds and wintering waterfowl. Learn about Scottish Environment LINK and their Marine taskforce who successfully campaigned to Save Scottish Seas.


In Wales, three Special Protection Areas (SPAs) were extended to protect a number of species, including gannets, razorbills and Manx shearwaters

The sites at Grassholm, Skomer and Skokholm and Bardsey Island were announced by the Welsh Government in October 2014 after a long campaign by RSPB. RSPB will continue to work with the Welsh Government to seek improvements and a bright future for Welsh seabirds.

How you can help

Kittiwake pair standing on rock, Isle of May National Nature reserve

Our precious seas are dying from neglect. Getting the legislation is just the first stage in delivering better protection for marine wildlife and seabirds. Your support today will help safeguard our sea life.

Make a date with nature

Osprey Pandion haliaetus, adult male off-duty perch early morning

Let us introduce you to some amazing wildlife at one of our date with nature events across the UK.