Our projects


National Marine Parks (NMPs) purpose is to connect people with their seascape to share in a sustainable future. NMPs offer a model that promotes access and enjoyment, supports local economies and protects life in the sea for our future.

Seventy years after Britain declared its first National Park, Blue Marine Foundation released a National Marine Park Vision for British Seas in 2021 demonstrating that there is an appetite for marine parks in British coastal waters. In 2023, a National Framework has been endorsed by national and local advocates, with guidance produced by Blue Marine to help deliver the vision.

The advocates of National Marine Parks believe they could revolutionise how the public views the ocean, enhance people’s access and enjoyment, support local economies and protect our seascapes for a sustainable future. Marine parks are a way of making the most of the blue planet on our doorstep.

National Parks were created on land in the post-war era to protect open spaces and support the nation’s mental and physical health and well-being. They also provide a significant boost to rural economies. Ten National Parks in England contribute as much as £4 billion to the economy with 90 million visitors each year, supporting 140,000 jobs. Three National Parks in Wales generate an estimated 12 million visitors and over a half a billion pounds per year. These National Parks cover almost a quarter of the land in England and Wales, but despite being an island nation with an extraordinary 30,000 kilometres of coastline we have no national parks in the sea.

The UK and the Channel Isles are home to some of the richest coastal waters on the planet, but the nation at large remains largely disconnected from the sea. Since 2018 Blue Marine has led a national conversation to evolve the concept of National Marine Parks, culminating in 2023 with the publication of a National Framework and Guiding Principles.


The Journey so far

The journey started in 2018, when Blue Marine invited 130 people to discuss the future of marine parks in the UK at a national conference in Plymouth. The day ended with unanimous consensus that National Marine Parks as a concept could be used to better protect coastal waters while bringing shared prosperity, broader public engagement and regeneration of deprived coastal communities. The conference agreed that Plymouth should declare a marine park. A case was made and on 14 September 2019, 70 years after our first national parks on land, the city of Plymouth came together to declare Plymouth Sound National Marine Park.

The Vision for National Marine Parks (2021) was based on interviews with leaders in many coastal communities and drew on insights from supporting the development of Plymouth Sound National Marine Park. Blue Marine explored ten further locations around Britain where marine parks could benefit nature, communities and economies.  During 2022, insights were gained from potential location facilitators, who were beginning to explore how marine parks could boost tourism, sustainable fishing, public health and economic recovery (as reported in a newsletter) To help take the vision to the next stage of its journey, Blue Marine established a National Marine Parks Strategic Working Group in 2022 that provided cross-sector and regional input to shape a framework to guide the future evolution of National Marine Parks in Britain.

The National Framework and Guiding Principles  aims to promote common understanding of the vision for National Marine Parks and proposes a definition, purpose and objectives that encourage a new and shared, sustainable relationship for people with the seascape. As a guide for communities seeking to establish a NMP, five principles are outlined: sustainability; connectivity; fundability; lifelong learning; and equity and inclusion. Example aims are also included that can be selected and adapted as appropriate for a specific location.


A National Marine Park is an expansive seascape of national importance, where the priority is to promote public awareness and understanding of coastal and marine heritage and seascape recovery; enable recreational enjoyment; and realise environmental and socio-economic benefits for coastal communities.

The insights and learnings from Blue Marine’s exploration of National Marine Parks are shared in the Guidance for National Marine Park Evolution, setting out ten steps for any location to consider when exploring the establishment of a National Marine Park.

Our Asks

In September 2023 Luke Pollard MP hosted a parliamentary drop-in event with the Blue Marine Foundation, Campaign for National Parks and the Local Government Association. All political parties were asked to make a commitment to National Marine Parks part of their General Election manifesto. See our asks here.


Scotland in particular holds great promise for new National Marine Parks.  In the Vision for National Marine Parks in Scotland, Blue Marine reviewed the past consideration and future possibilities for National Marine Parks in Scotland, focusing on the Argyll region on the west coast.

National Parks (Scotland) Act 2000 means Scottish Ministers can designate National Parks which A legal review of the National Park (Scotland) Act 2000 -James Harrison In August 2021 the Scottish Government and the Scottish Green Party committed to introducing at least one new National park before the next Scottish election in 2026. Blue Marine believes at least one of these National Parks should have a marine and coastal element. Scotland’s coastal communities are being encouraged to consider making formal bids for marine and coastal National Parks in their areas. Blue Marine will be supporting identification and proposals of areas that can bring the most benefit for the environment and local communities

Our journey so far has proven that there is widespread support for National Marine Parks, and that the foundations for extending existing or creating new National Parks to include the sea exists, through existing legislation or through voluntary declaration by coastal communities.

There is a sea of opportunity for the National Marine Park vision to evolve and create new connections between communities and their local seascape.

Charles Clover, co-founder of Blue Marine Foundation, said: “Our marine natural heritage is right there, just off the beach, but paradoxically the public is hardly involved in the enjoyment or the stewardship of this island nation’s greatest asset.  We believe marine parks are a useful way of connecting the public with the sea around Britain’s coastline, with the pioneering model of Plymouth’s National Marine Park leading the way.

We should like to see Plymouth’s successful model of a National Marine Park developed and enlarged and for others to take it up.  We would like to see marine parks take off in the Channel Islands and we would love to see Scotland develop National Parks in the sea. The marine park concept is now alive and well in these islands and available to communities wherever it can add value to existing conservation efforts.”



Related news


How to help

By working together, we can turn the tide on overfishing and the destruction of biodiversity. By supporting Blue Marine, you can help to create marine reserves around the world.


No matter how big or small, all donations are valuable to us.


Join Friends of Blue Marine

Support Blue Marine by joining us today.

Join us

Blue Marine Yacht club

The Ocean’s Favourite Club

Become a member