Bembridge MCZ

Status: Proposed


Site overview

Popular with sailors who travel to Bembridge to enjoy life on the waves, the seabed at this site is a real treasure chest for UK seas. Hugging the east coast of the Isle of Wight, the site stretches out into the Eastern Solent. Bembridge hosts a range of diverse habitats, including seagrass, along with some very rare marine animals. The site has been proposed to protect its unique maerl beds - made up of a pink coralline algae - as well as a scarce stalked jellyfish and long-snouted seahorse. The reef-building ross worm, native oysters and seagrass beds are also found here. The ledges to the south of Bembridge Harbour are home to large fields of the nationally rare peacock’s tail seaweed, as well as the lagoon sand shrimp and starlet sea anemone. Designation of this marine conservation zone in 2019 will protect this jewel of our seas for the future, and allow populations of some very special marine wildlife to recover and thrive.

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

84.83 km2 (32.75 mi.2)


56.74 km (35.25 mi.)

  • Native oysters (Ostrea edulis)

    Native oysters are two shelled animals - one half is like a cup and attaches to the rock, the other is flat and forms a lid. These oysters have been farmed for food since Roman times and the shells are a common find in archeological digs. 

  • Peacock’s tail  (Padina pavonica)

    A brown seaweed that is found in rock pools and to a depth of up to 20m. It is shaped like a curved fan, hence the name.

  • 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.

  • Stalked jellyfish (Haliclystus spp.)

    Bell-shaped, jelly-like, eight-armed animals that have a stalk and a sucker which they use to attach to marine plants, rocks or the seabed. Some species can move and do so by cartwheeling.

  • Stalked jellyfish (Lucernariopsis campanulata)

    Bell-shaped, jelly-like, eight-armed animals that have a stalk and a sucker which they use to attach to marine plants, rocks or the seabed. Some species can move and do so by cartwheeling.

  • Subtidal mud

    A very rich and diverse muddy undersea habitat that supports high numbers of worms, cockles and other shellfish, urchins and sea cucumbers as well as sea pens, burrowing anemones and brittlestars.

  • 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.

  • Sea-pen and burrowing megafauna communities

    Areas of stable muddy seabed, where animals burrow below and sea pens protrude from the surface. Sea pens are colonial animals that look a bit like quill pen.

  • 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

  • Subtidal mixed sediments

    Undersea beds of a mixture of stones, gravels, sands and muds. Because mixed seabeds are so varied, they may support a wide range of animals, both on and in the sediment.

  • Seagrass beds

    Seagrasses (also known, for their long thin leaves, as eel grass) are grass-like flowering plants with dark green, long, narrow, ribbon-shaped leaves. They are one of the very few groups of flowering plants that live in the sea.

  • Maerl beds

    Maerl beds include several species of red seaweed, with hard, chalky skeletons. Maerl is rock hard and grows, unattached to the seabed, in little nodules or branched shapes on the seabed. Each bit is quite small, but they can accumulate in large areas tha

  • Sheltered muddy gravels

    Muddy gravels occur mainly in estuaries, drowned river valleys and sea lochs, in areas protected from wave action and strong tidal streams. They can be found both on the shore and in the shallows.

Seasearch Logo

A targeted survey in August 2017 discovered large numbers of echiuran spoonworms in soft mud (an unusual habitat) which had previously been recorded in the area. The focus for Seasearch divers in 2018 will be on exploring maerl beds in the south of the site in Sandown Bay.

Learn more about Seasearch

Did you know?…

Over half a million people have voiced their support for ‘marine protected area’ designation in the UK through our campaigns

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

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