This review outlines the policy frameworks for marine conservation zones (MCZs) and marine special areas of conservation (SACs), which are the main components of the emerging UK marine protected area (MPA) network. If current recommendations are implemented, the coverage of MPAs in English seas could rise to 27%. The governance challenges that this will raise are explored through case studies of MPA initiatives in south-west England. Whilst the initial processes by which MCZ recommendations have been developed provided for stakeholder participation (bottom-up), the main steer has been from central government (top-down). The subsequent designation and implementation of MCZs is likely to be more top-down. Marine SAC processes have, by contrast, been top-down from the outset. The fishing industry fears that more MPAs will lead to increasing restrictions, whilst conservationists fear that MPAs will not be sufficiently protected, potentially becoming paper MPAs. Both argue that the burden of proof should be placed on the other party. Such combinations of top-down (central government-led) and bottom-up (community and user-led) approaches and the related conflicts are typical of government-led MPAs in temperate countries that have higher governance capacities. Top-down approaches tend to dominate, but this does not mean that they cannot be combined with bottom-up approaches.
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