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Marine Protected Area Mapper

The JNCC Marine Protected Area (MPA) mapper is an interactive resource containing information on the MPAs designated in UK and Crown Dependency waters.

The mapper displays MPA boundaries in all UK and Crown Dependency waters, and protected feature information for sites within UK offshore waters. JNCC is responsible for identifying and providing conservation advice on MPAs in UK offshore waters (> 12 nautical miles from the coast). Our feature distribution information is periodically reviewed and new feature information will be added as it becomes available.

Before using the MPA Mapper please read our Terms and Conditions. Help information and Frequently Asked Questions are given below.

Using the mapper

On the left of the mapper there are two windows:

  • All Layers – used to toggle layers on and off in the map
  • Active Layers – provides information (including a 'show legend' button) and allows users to manipulate and filter the layers displayed in the map.

You can left click and drag to move around the map and zoom in/out by scrolling with the mouse or using one of the zoom in/out map tools (in the bottom right). You can also move to a different area of the map by clicking and dragging the blue hashed box around the inset map in the bottom left hand corner.

Inset map on the Marine Protected Area mapper

The mapper uses the Web Mercator projection (EPSG:3857). A scale bar (km) and cursor coordinates (latitude/longitude in decimal degrees) are shown in the bottom right, as well as a scale dependent attribute statement and a base map terms of use link. Copyright and usage limitations for individual map layers can be found in the layer metadata links (see Active layers, below).


Map tools

In the bottom right-hand corner of the mapper there is a toolbar. Map tool bar for Marine Protected Area mapper




Base map selector icon on the Marine Protected Area Mapper

base maps – change the base map

 Share map link button on the Marine Protected Area mapper

share map link – creates a link which returns a specific view of the mapper (including active layers and filters chosen by the user)

Map information button on the Marine Protected Area mapper

map information – opens a window with background information about the MPA mapper

Zoom in and out buttons on the Marine Protected Area mapper

zoom in/zoom out – zoom in or out in increments

Zoom to map extent button on the Marine Protected Area mapper

zoom to map extent – zooms to the full extent of all displayed map layers

Zoom in and out by box buttons on the Marine Protected Area mapper

drag zoom in/drag zoom out – zoom in or out on a specific area with a user-defined box

Button that opens the go to coordinates tool on the Marine Protected Area mapper

go to coordinates – opens the go to coordinates tool, in which users can specify a set of latitude/longitude coordinates (in decimal degrees) that they want to move the map to


All Layers window

All layers window on the Marine Protected Area mapperAll available map layers are listed in this window with the layers classified into groups and sub-groups. The window can be hidden by clicking the cross in the top right-hand corner. The window can then be re-opened by clicking the Re-expand all layers window button on the Marine Protected Area mapper button.


Groups and sub-groups can be expanded/collapsed to show/hide the list of layers by clicking on the small white arrow to the left of the group name. The number to the right of the group name indicates the number of layers turned on in that group. To turn on/off all layers in the group at once, simply click this number.

Single layers can be turned on and off by clicking on the toggle icon to the left of the layer name. Further information about a layer is displayed when you hover over the '?' icon to the right of the layer name.

When a layer is turned on it appears in the Active Layers window.


Active Layers window

Active layers toolbar on the JNCC Marine Protected Area mapper

This window shows layers that are currently turned on in the All Layers window. The window can be collapsed/expanded using the white arrow in the top right-hand corner of the window. The window can also be moved by clicking and dragging using the 6-dot drag icon in the top left of the window. 

The following controls/tools are available for each layer in the Active Layers window



Drag layer icon on the Marine Protected Area mapper

move layer – click and drag above/below other layers to change the layer drawing order

Layer opacity control button on the Marine Protected Area mapper

opacity – opens a sliding tool to change the transparency of the layer

Show legend button on the Marine Protected Area mapper

Show legend – opens a window showing the legend for the chosen layer

Zoom to layer extent button on the Marine Protected Area mapper

zoom to layer extent – zooms to the full extent of the layer

Download data button on the Marine Protected Area mapper

download data – links to the download location of the data (if available). If the download is unavailable this icon will be greyed-out and will display the text ‘not currently downloadable’.

Metadata link button used on the Marine Protected Area mapper

metadata link – links to the metadata location for the chosen layer.

Filter layer button on the Marine Protected Area mapper

filter layer – opens a new window in which users can filter the layer. When a filter is in place the icon will turn red. This function is only available for certain layers.


Feature information

Clicking the left mouse button on a feature in a map layer will bring up information about that feature in a window on the right side of the screen. If there are multiple features in a particular location, the feature information will be displayed as a scroll-able list in the window.


Gazetteer search bar on the JNCC Marine Protected Area mapper

This search allows you to zoom to an MPA or region within UK waters (e.g. "Northern Ireland offshore"). Typing the name of the MPA/region produces a list of search suggestions, from which the user can click on the area of interest.



Clicking on a layer's filter button in the Active Layers window will open a new Filter Layer window. 

Example of filter window on the Marine Protected Area mapper

Multiple options can be selected in the check-box list. Once a selection is made, click 'apply' to filter the data or 'clear' to remove the selections. The filter will remain in place even if the layer is turned off and back on, until 'clear' is clicked in the Filter Layer window. To close the filter window either click the white cross in the top right corner or click on the mapper outside the filter window. 

Please note – the filters use an OR query, so if you checked the first two options in the above example it would return coral garden points with a subtype of Black coral garden OR Soft-bottom bamboo coral garden.

Some layers allow combined filters, for example the Nature Conservation MPA layer can be filtered for sites that protect particular habitats, species or geological features (using multiple check-box selections). These filters are combined in an OR query, so selecting one habitat and one species will return sites that protect the habitat feature and/or the species feature. It does not return only the sites that protect both features. 


Adding external layers

External datasets can be added from other Web Map Services (WMS) by clicking the Add external layers button on the Marine Protected Areas mapper button in the All Layers window.

You can either select from one of the existing options in the ‘Select a service...’ dropdown menu or by copying a WMS URL into the free text box and clicking 'Get layers'. A list of available layers will appear – check the boxes of the required layers and then click ‘Add selected layers to the map’. The layers will appear as a new group at the bottom of the ‘All Layers’ window, where they can then be toggled on/off.


Web Map Services (WMS)

To display JNCC MPA mapper layers on your desktop GIS application or on another mapping portal, use the following WMS URL:

For help adding WMS layers to ArcMap see: (ArcMap version 9.2)
(ArcMap version 10.1)

For help adding WMS layers to QGIS see:

For help adding WMS layers to MapInfo see:


Frequently asked questions

Mapper content

What does 'offshore' mean?

'Offshore' is a legal definition to describe the UK's waters between the UK Territorial Sea limit (up to 12 nautical miles from the coast) and the UK Exclusive Economic Zones or UK Continental Shelf at the outer limit of UK waters. It's within this area of UK waters that JNCC has the responsibility to provide advice to the UK Government and Devolved Administrations on nature conservation. 

Why are some MPA features not displayed on the mapper?

The mapper displays the distribution of habitat, species and geological/geomorphological features protected in offshore MPAs only. Spatial data for protected features of inshore MPAs are presented on other online portals, such as the MAGIC Map for English inshore waters and the MAPS NMPi tool for Scotland's seas.

Why are some data not displayed for offshore MPA features?

The mapper only displays MPA features where they are protected within offshore sites. Where these features are more widely distributed, or present within other sites but not protected, information is not displayed. As such, habitat maps for some sites may appear to have gaps due to the presence of habitats that are not protected features within those sites.

In some instances spatial distribution data are unavailable and cannot be presented on the mapper, for example ocean quahog point data from third parties that we not have permission to share publicly. When such data becomes publicly available it is added to the mapper. 

Why is there more information on offshore sites than inshore sites?

JNCC is responsible for providing advice to government on nature conservation in UK offshore waters. JNCC uses information on the offshore environment to underpin our advice on the selection of protected areas, their conservation objectives and their condition. Information that we or our partners have collected, and third-party information that we have permission to share, is presented on this mapper.

The four Country Nature Conservation Bodies (CNCBs) hold information on MPAs in their respective inshore waters: Natural England, Natural Resources Wales, NatureScot, and the Department of Agriculture Environment and Rural Affairs in Northern Ireland.

What are SACs and SPAs with 'marine components'?

The UK has designated Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) for habitats and non-avian species, and Special Protection Areas (SPAs) for birds in terrestrial, marine and freshwater environments. The JNCC MPA mapper only displays SACs and SPAs that protect the marine environment – so called SACs and SPAs with 'marine components’.

SACs with marine components protect Annex I and/or Annex II features associated with the marine environment. SPAs with marine components protect Annex I species or regularly occurring migratory species that are dependent on the marine environment for all or part of their lifecycle, where these species are found in association with intertidal or subtidal habitats within the sites.

Further information on SACs and SPAs with marine components is available on the JNCC website.

Accessing data layers

How can I display layers from JNCC's MPA mapper on my desktop GIS application or my own web mapping portal?

All the layers are available through an Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC), available via a Web Map Service (WMS): Some of the layers are also available to download by clicking the Download data button button under the relevant layer in the ‘Active Layers’ window.

Symbols and display

Why do the boundaries of inshore MPAs not exactly match the coastline?

Site boundaries drawn along the coast are demarcated using Ordnance Survey coastline data, which are only available under licence. The Bing and OpenStreetMap base maps available on the mapper use different coastline data and therefore inshore MPAs and the coastline will not match-up in all locations.

What do the different symbols mean in the layers I am viewing?

Click on the show legend button in the ‘Active Layers’ window for your layer of interest and a legend window will appear explaining the symbolisation.

Technical issues

Why does the mapper run slowly on my device?

The time it takes for layers to load on your computer or device will depend on the speed of the internet connection and how many layers you are trying to load simultaneously. Find a faster internet connection or reduce the number of layers in the Active Layers window to improve performance. We recommend using the most up-to-date version of Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Internet Explorer or Safari.

Why can I not see the full extent of the layers when I zoom to the full extent (Zoom to layer extent button)?

The full extents of the layers are configured using a particular screen resolution. If your screen resolution is lower than this or if your browser window is not maximised, you may need to zoom out to view the full extent.

Why can't I type place names into the ‘Search’ box?

The ‘Search’ function will only move the map to specific Marine Protected Areas and parts of UK waters (e.g. Wales offshore). To direct the map to other locations (such as town or county) you will need to drag the map and use the zoom in/out tools.


Contact us

If you have any further questions that are not answered by this page then please contact us.




About Marine Protected Areas

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