Selsey Bill and the Hounds MCZ

Status: Proposed


Site overview

A popular Sussex seaside holiday destination, the band Madness liked to drive their car to Selsey Bill! Selsey derives from Old English ‘seal island’, while ‘Bill’ is a more recent addition that describes the beak-like shape of the headland. The site includes the rocky reefs stretching out to sea from the headland, as well as the Hounds clay and rocky reef to the north west of the site, a popular potting site for local inshore fishermen. Mixon Hole, an ancient, submerged river gorge featuring a 20m high clay cliff lies within the southern part of the site. Selsey Bill and the Hounds support a diverse community of seaweeds, crustaceans, molluscs, worms and fish, including the rare short-snouted seahorse and native oyster.

Designation of this marine conservation zone in 2019 should lead to protection of these fragile species and habitats from the impacts of damaging fishing gears.

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

12.80 km2 (4.94 mi.2)


19.37 km (12.04 mi.)

  • 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 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.

  • High energy infralittoral rock

    Shallow water rock, below the tides, exposed to very strong waves and currents.

  • Moderate energy infralittoral rock

    Shallow water rock, below the tides, with some shelter from waves and currents.

  • 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.

  • Low energy infralittoral rock

    Rocky areas in wave and tide-sheltered conditions below the lowest tide dominated by seaweeds including kelp.

  • Bracklesham Bay

    The Bracklesham Bay geological feature is where the Earnley Clay Formation exposes Eocene fossils along the beach.

Seasearch Logo

Seasearch completed a report on this site in 2012. Divers found that, at both the Mixon Hole and the Hounds the shallow, upward facing, surfaces of the limestone were covered in a rich turf of red and brown seaweeds and sponges including breadcrumb, sulphur and goosebump sponges.

Learn more about Seasearch

Did you know?…

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

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

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