UK SEAS Project


Covering 70% of the earth’s surface, oceans are one of our planet’s most vital resources — helping to generate oxygen, regulate temperatures and sustain livelihoods globally. But the future of our oceans are at risk. 

Launched in 2018, the UK Seas Project (UK SEAS) seeks to preserve UK coastlines — ensuring a vibrant future for marine ecosystems and their inhabitants. Co-financed by the WWF and Sky Ocean Rescue, the £25 million project will help overcome primary barriers in ocean management, such as finance and stakeholder management. 

Close-up of a burrowing anemone in maerl bed. Photo: Graham Saunders / NatureScot

The UK SEAS Project aims to bolster:

Community engagement

  • Creating a platform for existing and new ocean users like. Inspiring communities, at every level, to get involved in the management of MPAs.

Marine governance

  • From tourism to fishing, users of the sea may hold conflicting ideas with what a ‘well managed’ MPA looks like. Utilising the newly developed Compass tool, which outlines 38 necessary criteria, UK SEAS is encouraging greater positive engagement.

Sustainable finance

    • Maintaining MPAs is expensive, so UK SEAS are developing sustainable financing mechanisms (initially in case study areas) that stick and help influence key policy. That’s as well as promoting public private partnerships to also help secure long-term funding.

  • But, of course, marine life sustainability remains paramount.

  • Approximately 20% of UK waters make up Marine Protected Areas, with more awaiting MPA status (possible Marine Protected Areas, also known as ‘pMPAs’). In Scotland alone, you’ll find 30 MPAs: 13 in offshore waters and 17 in inshore waters. 

    Rich in wildlife, it’s no surprise that the Sea of the Hebrides MPA — surrounding the Outer Hebrides — was selected as one of the first case studies for the project. Located on the western edge of the continental shelf, ocean currents bring an array of eclectic wildlife to the region, including dolphins, whales and sharks, and many more.

A scorpion fish hiding in a crevice. Photo: Lisa Kamphausen / NatureScot

New technology from UK SEAS will help better understand our marine life. 

For the first time ever in the UK, for example, an autonomous ‘SharkCam’ will shed light on the elusive behaviour of basking sharks in the Inner Hebrides. For six hours, a 360° camera will follow the lives of the second-largest fish in the world (after the whale shark). 

Basking shark numbers in the region are among the highest compared to elsewhere globally, with experts believing they even breed here — an event never before observed. Now, thanks to the new project, this may be possible.

Basking shark at the surface of the water. Photo: Ben James / NatureScot

Interested to learn more? Click on the links below for further reading.

Further reading