Studland Bay MCZ

Status: Proposed


Site overview

Studland is a shallow, sheltered bay just West of the entrance to Poole Harbour, so is very popular with day-tripper sailors looking for a leisurely day on the water in a beautiful place. Studland is also home to a lush seagrass meadow, providing excellent habitats for of both species of seahorse found in the UK, as well as pipefishes, wrasse, spider crabs, cuttlefish, and juvenile bass, bream and flatfish. Studland is the only known breeding habitat for the spiny seahorse, and provides important nursery habitat for the endangered undulate ray. Native oysters, the Chinese-hat shell (a kind of limpet), hermit crabs and the masked crab are also found here.

Studland was suggested for designation as an MCZ in the second round of MCZ consultations, but met much opposition from local sailors concerned they would lose a historical safe anchorage and much-loved leisure spot. Excessive and insensitive mooring and anchoring in the seagrass can significantly damage to the meadow as anchors dig up the grass by the roots, and mooring chains scour the seabed in the tide. Environmentally-friendly moorings are urgently needed at Studland to ensure that this site can still be enjoyed without damaging the seagrass, the seahorses and the other amazing wildlife found there.

Designation of this Marine Conservation Zone in 2019 should provide long-needed solutions for this fabulous site.

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

3.97 km2 (1.53 mi.2)


9.31 km (5.79 mi.)

  • Long-snouted seahorse (Hippocampus guttulatus)

    Seahorses are actually bony fish. Instead of scales, seahorses have skin stretched over a series of bony plates, which are visible as rings around the body. This bony armour helps protect them, and there are few animals that eat adult seahorses.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • Intertidal coarse sediment

    Where small rocks, pebbles, and gravel, sometimes mixed with coarse sand are sometimes covered by the tide. While it may not look like much lives there - there are animals specially adapted to live in the moist spaces between the shingle and gravel.

Seasearch Logo

Partners at Dorset Seasearch have conducted targeted surveys here over the years since the site was recommended for designation as a marine protected area. Divers have worked to try and better understand the extent and status of the seagrass beds.

Learn more about Seasearch

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

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

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