Ribble MCZ

Status: Proposed


Site overview

The Ribble Estuary is famous as a nationally important habitat for hundreds of thousands of waders and wildfowl that overwinter there each year. Very few people know that the site is also important year-round for smelt, a small estuarine shoaling fish distantly related to salmon. Smelt live in the salty water of estuaries and during May to August they swim upriver to spawn in fresh water. Smelt populations are in decline, with most of the recorded populations in Scotland now extinct, and with populations in England and Wales suffering drastic decline.

If designated in 2019, this marine conservation zone will provide the local smelt population with much-needed protection.

MPA Type

Marine Conservation Zone

Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) are designated under UK legislation (Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009) and have been established around England, Wales and Northern Ireland to contribute to the UK MPA network protect a range of nationally important marine wildlife, habitats, geology and geomorphology, and can be designated anywhere in English and Welsh territorial and UK offshore waters.

Surface Area

15.13 km2 (5.84 mi.2)


338.25 km (210.18 mi.)

  • Smelt (Osmerus eperlanus)

    Smelt are fish related to the salmon.  They shoal in the salty water of estuaries and around the mouths of rivers.  Early each year they come upriver to breed in fresh water before returning to the sea. Many populations are now extinct.

Did you know?…

Over 170 parliamentarians from across the political spectrum signed up to our Marine Charter calling for a network of ‘marine protected areas’ in UK Seas

Over 500,000 records of undersea species and habitats have been collected by volunteer Seasearch divers