History of Marine Protection

The importance of protecting the island’s marine habitats was realised in the 1960’s when Lundy became a sought after undiscovered dive destination amongst a growing number of divers and biologists.

Recognised as an area of exceptionally rich marine life and one of scientific interest, it soon became apparent that steps were needed to protect the islands habitats from a growing trend of exploitation by divers taking sea fans and other animals as mementoes or for sale as curios. Also, spear fishing and hunting of lobster, crawfish and scallop posed a noticeable threat by targeting the largest individuals in the breeding population.

These declines saw Lundy being nominated as a voluntary marine nature reserve, to start protecting the fragile and vulnerable marine habitats which had gained it such accolade amongst the diving fraternity. In 1971 this finally came to fruition and the first voluntary marine nature reserve in the UK was set up at Lundy. Furthermore after the Wildlife and Countryside Act became law in 1981, it was possible to establish a statutory Marine Nature Reserve (MNR) at Lundy in 1986 accompanied by byelaws.

Lundy’s Special Area of Conservation (SAC) status came about after the adoption of the Habitats Directive into UK law in 1994 which requires EU member states to create a network of protected wildlife areas across the European Union, collectively known as Natura 2000 sites. Lundy was initially notified as a ‘candidate’ site (cSAC) with formal designation not taking place until April 2005.

Both the MNR and SAC share the same outer boundaries and extend up to 1-2 km off shore in a rectangular shape around the island. Despite the similarities in conservation goals and physical boundaries, the designations are quite separate. This is mainly due to the SAC status being based on certain named features of the site (reefs, sandbanks, submerged or partially submerged sea caves and the Grey seal Halichoerus grypus) whereas the MNR status covered all the habitats and wildlife within its boundary.

In 2003 Lundy received further recognition of its role in UK marine conservation when a No Take Zone covering a 3.3 km2 area was designated off the east coast of the island. Protected by law, no living thing can be removed from this area and it adds yet another dimension to the protection of habitats and species on the east coast of the island.

Most recently significant developments over the past few years have seen the Marine and Coastal Access Act (2009) being passed through parliament and consequently a new type of Marine Protected Area (MPA), called a Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) has been created, of which Lundy was designated the first in England in 2010.

MCZs will protect nationally important marine wildlife, habitats, geology and geomorphology. The Marine Conservation Zone Project currently in progress concerns the selection of MCZs in English inshore waters and offshore waters next to England, Wales and Northern Ireland. MCZs, together with other types of MPA, will deliver the Government's aim for an ‘ecologically coherent network of Marine Protected Areas'. This means the MPA network will be a collection of areas that work together to provide more benefits than an individual area could on its own. 27 sites have been designated and further sites will be selected to protect not just the rare and threatened, but a range of marine wildlife.





Formal recognition of a voluntary marine nature reserve (VMNR) around the island, the first of its kind in the country.

Covered foreshore and sea bed from High Water Mark to 1 km offshore. Sufficiently large to include habitats and species of high scientific interest, yet small enough to monitor activities within it. Excluded main fishing banks.


Gentleman’s agreement’ between fishermen and conservationists to observe a ban on dredging/bottom trawling west of a line between the Knoll Pins and Surf Point.

Brought about to protect, in particular, the population of burrow-dwelling red band fish and other communities present in soft sediment areas


Formation of the Lundy Marine Consultation Group (re-named in 1994 the Lundy Marine Nature Reserve Advisory Group; and re-named again in 2010 the Lundy Marine Conservation Zone Advisory Group)

One of the main aims of the Group was to provide a forum for exchanging views on present and proposed activities around Lundy.


Designation of a statutory Marine Nature Reserve (MNR) around the island, the first such reserve in British waters (Fig.1).

Designated under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 on 21 November 1986, following a 3-month period of notification and 4 years of consultation!
Included new DSFC byelaws restricting certain fishing practices.


Designation of two of the island’s many wrecks, the Iona II and the ‘Gull Rock site’, as protected sites.

Designated under the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973. The Iona II was a paddle steamer built as a fast ferry for the Clyde in 1863 but sank a year later on her way to America. No wreck has been found at the Gull Rock site, but several stone shot and other artefacts dating from the sixteenth century have been found.


Publication of a Management Plan covering the MNR and the (terrestrial) SSSI.

One of the aims of the Plan was to ‘establish an effective structure for overseeing the management of the reserve’. A Management Group was formed from the statutory bodies involved in the management of the MNR.


Launch of the Zoning Scheme, allocating different zones for different activities within the MNR.

A ‘useful tool’ pioneered in marine reserves abroad for summarising byelaws and other regulations in an easy-to understand visual way.


Notification by the Department of the Environment as a ‘candidate’ Special Area of Conservation (cSAC), and in 2005 as an officially recognised SAC by law.

Notified under the EC Habitats Directive (1992) for certain of its marine habitats and species (rocky reefs, shallow sandbanks, sea caves and grey seals).


Designation of the No- Take Zone off the island’s east coast - the first such statutory area in the country to ban all forms of fishing within it.

Primarily established to protect vulnerable habitats and species of conservation importance off the east coast, by means of Devon Sea Fisheries Committee byelaws. Popularly viewed as a means of enhancing numbers and sizes of commercially exploitable species.


Formal designation of the Special Area of Conservation (SAC).

Designated by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on 1 April 2005.


Designation of Lundy Marine Conservation Zone