Marine Conservation Zones

Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) protect areas that are important to conserving the diversity of nationally rare or threatened habitats and/or species and those places containing habitats and/or species that are representative of the biodiversity in our seas. They will exist alongside European Marine Sites, SSSIs and Ramsar sites to form an ecologically coherent network of marine protected areas.
The UK designates MPAs within inshore and offshore waters under European and National legislation to contribute to the vision of ‘clean, safe, healthy, productive and biologically diverse oceans and seas’. UK Government and the Devolved Administrations are all designating MPAs to contribute to an ecologically coherent, well-managed network of MPAs by the end of 2016 to fulfil international and European commitments.
On the 21st of November 2013, DEFRA announced the designation of 27 Marine Conservation Zones around the English coast, 2 of which reside in the Southern IFCA District; these are Chesil Beach and Stennis Ledges and Poole Rocks.


Chesil Beach and Stennis Ledges

Chesil Beach and Stennis Ledges MCZ is an inshore site located off the Dorset coast. It runs along the length of Chesil Beach from Abbotsbury, to Weston on the Isle of Portland in the south-east. The site covers an area of approximately 37 km2 and extends seawards to include the reefs of the Stennis Ledges, an area of rocky ridges and rugged seabed. The site’s designated features are the pink sea-fan (Eunicella verrucosa), native oysters (Ostrea edulis), high energy intertidal rock and intertidal coarse sediment.
Link to Natural England’s Factsheet on Chesil Beach and Stennis Ledges MCZ

Poole Rocks

Poole Rocks MCZ is an inshore site covering an area of around 4 km2 and is one of the smaller designated MCZs. The site lies to the east of the entrance to Poole Harbour and approximately 2 – 2 ½ km to the east of the beachfront at Sandbanks. The site protects an area of rocky outcrops within the sediment-dominated Poole Bay. The site’s designated features are Couch’s Goby, native oysters (Ostrea edulis), subtidal mixed sediments and moderate energy circalittoral rock.
Link to Natural England’s Factsheet on Poole Rocks MCZ

Future Tranches of MCZs

There are two further tranches of MCZs planned over the next three years to complete the contribution to the ecologically coherent network.  Sites in future tranches will be selected largely based on the recommendations from the Regional MCZ Projects in order to meet the requirements of the network.

Defra published further information on the second tranche which can be seen here.

Defra is also planning a review of MCZ reference areas.

Additional information about MCZs is available at:
Natural England‘s advice is available at:

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