Beachy Head East (Royal Sovereign Shoals) MCZ

Status: Proposed


Site overview

Beachy Head East is an impressive body of water lying between the Beachy Head lighthouse and Hastings pier in Sussex, and extends out to 6nm, with bordering coastal towns including Eastbourne and Bexhill. The site includes the Soveriegn Shoals reef system of boulders and chalk cliffs, home to rich communities of plants and invertebrates.  These habitats provide important feeding grounds for many fish species that support local, low-impact fishermen, ánd which are popular with anglers. The blue mussel beds found here are some the best in the region, and the site is also home to seahorses and endangered undulate rays.

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

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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.

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Did you know?…

To the shelf limits, Scotland has 61% of UK waters, of which 23% are now in existing or new ‘marine protected areas’

Over 500,000 records on undersea habitats and species have been collected by volunteer Seasearch divers providing significant evidence for inshore ‘marine protected areas’

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

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