Beachy Head East MCZ

Status: Proposed


Site overview

Beachy Head East is an impressive body of water lying between the Beachy Head lighthouse and Hastings in Sussex. It extends out to 6nm, and is on the doorstep of both Eastbourne and Bexhill. The site includes the Sovereign Shoals reef system of boulders and marine chalk cliffs - a globally rare habitat – and is home to rich communities of plants and invertebrates. These habitats provide important nursery habitats and feeding grounds for many fish species, including herring, Dover sole and plaice, which support local, low-impact fishermen, and are sought after by anglers. The blue mussel beds found here are some the best in the region, and the site is also home to seahorses and ross worm reefs.

The MCS project Agents of Change is working with local fishermen and anglers to support the designation of this marine conservation zone so that this rich seabed is protected from damaging heavy, bottom-towed fishing gear.

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

194.87 km2 (75.24 mi.2)


67.15 km (41.73 mi.)

Coordinates (central point)

50° 46' 33" North, 0° 25' 17" East

  • Ross worm reefs (Sabellaria spinulosa)

    Ross worms build tubes from sand and shell fragments. They are usually found individually, but in some shallow water areas they occur in huge colonies that can be up to half a metre high and spread over several hectares. They are important because they p

  • Short-snouted seahorse (Hippocampus hippocampus)

    One of two species of seahorses found in the UK. The biology of seahorses is poorly known as is the exact size and distribution of the population.

  • Moderate energy circalittoral rock

    Deeper water rock, with some shelter from waves and currents.

  • Subtidal sand

    Sandy seascapes that can seem a bit like deserts, but can be full of life. Flat fish and sand eels camouflaged on the surface of the sand,worms and bivalves (with their paired, hinged shells) all live in places like these.

  • Subtidal coarse sediment

    Undersea beds of coarse sand, gravel and shingle. Most of the animals that live here, like bristleworms, sand mason worms, small shrimp-like animals, burrowing anemones, carpet shell clams and venus cockles, are found buried in the seabed – the safest pl

  • High energy circalittoral rock

    Rocky areas affected by strong waves or currents where the water depth means there is not enough sunlight so marine animal communities like sponges, sea firs and soft corals dominate and seaweeds are mostly absent.

  • Subtidal chalk

    The chalk we see on our coastline can continue below the tide and create a very rich habitat for marine life. Becasue chalk is soft it is vulnerable to damage.

  • Littoral chalk communities

    Special communities of animals and seaweeds that live on chalk seashores. Chalk is a soft, pure limestone and is easily eroded by seawater. This results in a characteristic type of beach, with a wide shore, often extending for many hundreds of metres, ba

  • Peat and clay exposures

    Seabeds formed of exposed peat or clay, or in some cases both, which are very rare. Where they do occur they attract a variety of plant and animal life.

Seasearch Logo

Seasearch volunteers have dived this site regularly and data exists from the 1990s. A targeted survey in August 2017 discovered large areas of blue mussels and revisited the Horse of Willingdon, part of the Royal Sovereign Shoals sandstone reef complex. A report on 2017 diving is being prepared.

Learn more about Seasearch

Did you know?…

An area over 9 times the size of Wales is now in marine protected areas in the UK, but less than 1% is considered by MCS scientists to be well managed

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