Ringed plover charadrius hiaticula, adult amongst razorshells. Side view. Titchwell beach, Norfolk

Marine planning

We believe that a co-ordinated planning regime is needed in seas that are increasingly busy and under pressure.

More than just wildlife protection

We have long been keen advocates of marine planning on the grounds it will improve the protection of the marine environment through better management of marine activities, space and resources.

However, marine planning should tackle more than wildlife protection.

We believe marine planning should facilitate marine development in a coherent way which provides certainty about where, when and how development and other commercial activities should be allowed.

We believe these plans should help to identify suitable and/or unsuitable areas for particular activities thereby helping to avoid planning conflicts, whilst also ensuring space for marine wildlife. The first of these, extending off the east coast of England into the North Sea, was adopted in 2013.

Early-mid summer roseate tern Sterna dougallii, standing on a leafy mossy rock with a blue background.

What does an effective marine planning system look like?

We have commissioned a number of reports to inform our views on just what an effective marine planning system might look like. 

In Scotland, along with the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) we commissioned the report Making the Case for Marine Spatial Planning in Scotland (May 2004), which explores how a marine planning system could be used to better manage Scottish waters.

In December 2004, we commissioned an analysis of the potential benefits of marine spatial planning to economic activity in the UK to improve understanding, and inform the debate about the likely implications of marine spatial planning for the sectors affected.

In January 2010, hot on the heels of the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009’s arrival, we, along with other environmental organisations commissioned the report Mobilising the Marine Act (January 2010). This took stock of global best-practice, revisiting some of the marine planning case studies that we examined in 2004.


The RSPB is the country’s largest nature conservation charity, inspiring everyone to give nature a home. PDF, 524Kb

RSPB response to East England Marine Plans consultation Oct 2013

Marine planning is an essential tool to help ensure that seabirds, waterbirds and migratory species are accommodated and considered in deciding the most appropriate use of marine space at different times of year. PDF, 1.5Mb

RSPB guidance on the use of bird data in marine planning

Birds and marine planning

To assist with the development of marine plans, in 2012 we prepared guidance for planners on marine bird data, with an initial focus on the English planning system.

The guidance highlights useful sources of data and information as well as explaining how birds use marine areas.

Marine planning is one of the key tools outside of protected areas for safeguarding important areas for the UK’s sea life, including mobile species such as seabirds. It is therefore vital that environmental data and expertise feeds into this process along with the knowledge and experience of other sea users.

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.