The Isle of Man has a great diversity of marine and coastal habitats and high biodiversity in terms of species and ecosystems. Some aspects of Manx marine biodiversity are extremely well studied, mainly as a result of research carried out at Port Erin Marine Laboratory for over 114 years. The intertidal species and habitats of the south of the Isle of Man were particularly well studied in the past. Other aspects remain less well understood, particularly subtidal habitats, with the exception of the southern coast and the Calf, and the inshore environment.
Over 2300 marine animal species had been recorded in the Isle of Man up to 1963 (Bruce et al. 1963) and many more have been recorded since. At least 225 species of algae have been recorded in Manx waters
Statutory marine and coastal conservation in the Isle of Man is the responsibility of the Department and Environment, Food and Agriculture (DEFA) of the Isle of Man Government. The main legislation available for protected species and habitats is the Wildlife Act 1990 and the Fisheries Act 2012. The Wildlife Act provides for the conservation of marine and coastal habitats through site protection and species protection; whilst the Fisheries Act is designed to conserve the marine and freshwater fish, and shellfish populations of the Isle of Man. The Wildlife Committee of the Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture is a statutory body and has a duty under the Wildlife Act 1990 to advise the Department on the administration of the Wildlife Act and in connection with the protection of birds or other animals or plants.
Manx National Heritage also plays an important role in conservation, supporting biological recording and informing the public, for example through the Natural History Gallery in the Manx Museum and collections of marine specimens and historic and scientific resources. Government agencies are supported in conservation action and research by a wide range of Non-Governmental Organisations, including the Manx Wildlife Trust, Manx Birdlife, Manx Whale and Dolphin Watch, Seasearch IoM and many others.
Marine Nature Reserves (MNRs) can be designated for subtidal sites and can also include intertidal areas (up to highest astronomical tide mark). Ramsey Bay Marine Nature Reserve was the Isle of Man’s first MNR and was designated in 2011. Approximately 10.8% of Manx territorial waters are now designated as Marine Nature Reserve, as part of the network of marine protected areas, which also include areas used for fisheries closures, both temporary and longer term. You can learn more about the Manx Marine Nature Reserve Network. You can also explore the Island’s Marine Nature Reserve on the MannGIS portal.
The EU Habitats Directive does not extend to the Isle of Man, but the Isle of Man is signed up (via the UK) to a number of Conventions identifying priority species and habitats for conservation, including:
- The OSPAR Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic,
- The Bonn Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna,
- The Bern Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats,
- The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance,
- The Rio Convention on Biological Diversity,
- The Washington Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES).
There is an increasing awareness and focus on the protection of “Blue Carbon” resources in the Isle of Man territorial sea. Blue carbon ecosystems in the Isle of Man include seagrass meadows, salt marshes, kelp forests, maerl beds, and muddy sediments. Find out more about the Manx Blue Carbon project.
More information on Marine Conservation in the Isle of Man can be found within chapter 3.7 of the Manx Marine Environmental Assessment.