Axe Estuary MCZ

Status: Proposed


Site overview

The ancient Axe Estuary is rich in both natural and cultural heritage, flowing past the old Roman port town of Seaton and out onto the World Heritage Site ‘Jurassic Coast’. In 2013, the largest horde of Roman coins was discovered on Seaton Down by an amateur metal detectorist, and this treasure is matched by a wealth of wildlife living within the proposed MCZ. The coastal saltmarshes, one of the most productive ecosystems in the world, are home to specialised, salt-tolerant plants and a plethora of marine invertebrates, and they provide vital foraging grounds for waders and wildfowl. The estuary is also an important nursery habitat for many fish species, where the critically endangered European eel is regularly encountered.

Designation of this marine conservation zone in 2019 will protect this special place from any current or future potentially damaging activities.

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

0.33 km2 (0.13 mi.2)


15.43 km (9.59 mi.)

  • Intertidal mud

    The quiet water in sheltered estuaries and harbours allows very fine silt and clay to settle and form a layer of mud that can be exposed at low tide. These glistening muddy expanses can be packed ful of life and are sometimes called the ‘larders of the s

  • Intertidal mixed sediments

    Sheltered shores where there is a mixture of pebbles, gravels, sands and mud and there may also be rocks and a few large boulders. Because it’s diverse, it provides a home for a wide variety of animals.

  • 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.

  • Coastal saltmarshes and saline reedbeds

    Saltmarshes link the land and the sea and create very specialised conditions for particular plants. They form a natural coastal defence and are home to a large variety of life. Associated reedbeds are equally rich and improtant and support iconic species

  • Estuarine rocky habitats

    Estuaries are usually soft, muddy places, so rock and stable boulders in estuaries are rare and offer a great habitat for a wide variety of plants and animals.

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