Over 23% of UK waters are now protected within Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). Management for these includes 25 legacy byelaws, 15 new voluntary agreements, and over 30 new byelaws at varying stages of completion. This year, we have designated a further ten Special Protection Areas (SPAs) for birds and the marine habitats on which they depend. This brings the total number of SPAs with marine components in the UK to 106, providing protection for over 18,000 km2 of seabird habitat. The third tranche of Marine Conservation Zones aims to complete our contribution to the international ecologically coherent network in the north east Atlantic. The consultation is due to start in the first half of 2018 with designation taking place within 12 months of that date. We have tabled legislation to ban plastic microbeads in cosmetics and personal care products. Subject to parliamentary processes, the ban on manufacture will begin in January 2018, with a ban on sale from July 2018.
The UK is on course to protect 4 million km2 of marine environment in the UK Overseas Territories by 2020 through the Blue Belt programme. In addition to the previously declared MPAs around the British Indian Ocean Territory, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, and within the British Antarctic Territory, since the commencement of the Blue Belt initiative the UK has also announced:
The UK is working closely with the relevant Overseas Territories to ensure these protected areas are supported by robust scientific data, legislation and enforcement.