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Credit: Guy Mitchell

Marine life along the Hampshire Coast

Hampshire’s coastline is unique, highlighted by the number of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) which have been designated around its shores; Solent Maritime SAC, Solent and Southampton Water SPA, Solent and Isle of Wight Lagoons SAC, Solent and Dorset Coast SPA, Portsmouth Harbour SPA and, Chichester and Langstone Harbour SPA.

Due to its location and the shape of the coastline Hampshire is fairly sheltered from wind and wave action. The narrow entrances to Portsmouth, Langstone and Newtown Harbours, as well as Southampton Water have allowed for vast shallow extents of mud and sand flats to develop. When exposed at low water these flats support internationally important numbers of ducks, geese, wading birds and more. Every winter these birds rely on the food sources that thrive in the marine sediment habitats (mud, sand and gravel); from worms and seas snails, to marine plants such as sea lettuce and seagrass. Seagrass (the only flowering marine plant) grows where waters are particularly sheltered in the soft sediments. These dense long grasses provide nursery (safe refuge) areas for a wide range of juvenile fish and shellfish species including seabass, bream, pollack and crab. Whilst mature commercial fish species such as grey mullet and clams thrive in the shallow mud habitats.

Credit: Louise MacCallum
Credit: Georgie Bull
Credit: Louise MacCallum

In the wider Solent, from Hurst Spit to Southsea subtidal mud, sand, mixed and coarse sediment habitats support a wide range of commercially important fish and shellfish species. Whelks (a large marine snail) hunt for other invertebrates, catsharks and smooth hounds hunt for whelks and crabs, whilst flat fish including sole and plaice eat small invertebrates which poke out of the mud.

Fishing along the Hampshire Coast

Hampshire’s sediment habitats have maintained the livelihoods of local fishermen for generations. The muddy sediments are home to a number of clam species, which are harvested using dredges and sandy sediments support many species of flatfish as well as breeding cuttlefish. In the wider Solent, coarse, more gravelly sediments have historically supported a prosperous native oyster fishery, and more recently a scallop fishery.

The protected marine habitats and those outside designated areas are instrumental in providing food and livelihoods to so many in the area. It is Southern IFCA’s duty to manage fishing activities within the MPAs in its District, and in order to ensure they remain healthy and diverse, trawling, dredging and hand gathering have been prohibited by Southern IFCA in many specific areas around the Hampshire coast to protect particularly vulnerable habitats such as seagrass beds and saltmarsh. Over the past XX years Southern IFCA has prohibited bottom towed fishing gear activities over a total of 27.8 square kilometres of habitats around the Hampshire coastline.

Credit: Georgie Bull
Please click to expand the image
Credit: Georgie Bull

For further information regarding the fisheries and Marine Protected Areas surrounding Hampshire, including Habitats Regulation’s Assessments please visit our ‘Fisheries and Research’ website section and choose the fishing activity you are interested in. 

To find out what management measures apply to a particular fishing activity please visit our ‘ Regulations ’ section.

For further information on the Marine Protected Areas found around Hampshire please visit the Natural England Designated Sites pages below. Note: other types of Protected areas are also designated including Sites of Special Scientific Interest and RAMSAR sites. These usually overlap with the sites listed below: 

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