Erme Estuary MCZ

Status: Proposed


Site overview

This sheltered estuary lies within the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and is a popular, remote destination for holiday makers looking for a quiet and relaxed day by the sea. The river is shrouded by dense woodland, and the estuary supports a mix of sandy seabed, bedrock and intertidal mud habitats, providing excellent habitat for wading birds. Sea trout and salmon use the river for spawning, there are important fish nursery habitats and the sands are used for bait and shellfish collecting by people. Defra indicates that this site has a low level of human activity and that there are no significant costs of designation of the site to any sector.

Designation of this marine conservation zone in 2019 is unlikely to affect any current human use of the site and will help protect it from any future developments that may threaten its natural beauty.

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

1.32 km2 (0.51 mi.2)


22.13 km (13.75 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.

  • High energy intertidal rock

    Rocky seashores, exposed to very strong waves and currents.

  • Moderate energy intertidal rock

    Rocky seashores, above low tide, with some shelter from waves and currents. On these shores, there are places where plants and animals can find shelter from the waves – the landward sides of boulders, in cracks and crevices, and in rock pools.

  • Low energy intertidal rock

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

Did you know?…

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

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