A conceptual framework was developed for assessing the sub-level of protection in 185 multiple-use marine protected areas (MPAs) in the English Channel through a survey on management effort. Data were retrieved from 153 MPAs: 4.56% were assigned low management effort, 83.70% were assigned medium management effort, and 11.76% were assigned high management effort. Overall, French MPAs performed better in terms of management effort than English MPAs and lack of consistency in ratings by different management bodies in England was found. Lack of correlation between management effort and conservation status within an available subset of 13 MPAs suggests that management may not be as influential a factor for the effective conservation of MPAs, especially in marine environments under heavy human pressure such as the English Channel. It is suggested that MPAs in such areas may therefore require an upgrade of their legal level of protection to be effective.