Dart Estuary MCZ

Status: Proposed


Site overview

This beautiful place lies upstream of the historical naval town of Dartmouth, within the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and includes a complex of saltmarshes, saline reedbeds and tidal mudflats. These productive habitats house vast numbers of invertebrates which feed thousands of wading birds and wildfowl, and include the nationally scarce tentacled lagoon worm. The mix of habitats also provide excellent nursery habitat for commercially fished species such as bass. Both UK species of seahorse, the short-nosed and the spiny seahorse, have been recorded within the estuary as far as three miles upstream.

If designated in 2019, The Dart Estuary Marine Conservation Zone will protect the second largest area of intertidal mud habitat in the English MPA network.

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

4.70 km2 (1.81 mi.2)


52.02 km (32.32 mi.)

  • Tentacled lagoon-worm (Alkmaria romijni)

    A tiny, very scarce bristleworm, less than five millimetres long. It lives in a tube made of mud in some sheltered estuaries and lagoons.

  • 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

  • Low energy intertidal rock

    Rocky seashores, sheltered from waves and currents dominated by seaweeds and exposed at low tide.

  • 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?…

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

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

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