The first offshore Marine Protected Area (MPA) in the United Kingdom (UK) is the Darwin Mounds, an area of Lophelia pertusa (Linnaeus, 1758) discovered only in 1998. At the time of its discovery, this was considered to be an exceptional example of L. pertusa, growing on
a sand base, rather than hard substratum, and exhibiting a distinctive "tail" structure not yet seen elsewhere. Damage to the area caused by deep-water trawling has been observed and in 2003, at the UK's request, the European Commission imposed a ban on trawling in a 1380 km 2 area surrounding
the Mounds, which became permanent in 2004. This move was made possible by the revised Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and represents the first EC example of an offshore fisheries closure for nature conservation (rather than fish stocks). Eventually a network of offshore MPAs will be designated
throughout the EU's marine waters, including around the UK. Drawing on a detailed legal and policy analysis and a program of semi-structured interviews with stakeholders, regulators and specialists in the field, this paper explores the unique circumstances and sequence of events that led to
the protection of the Darwin Mounds.
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