South-West Deeps (East) MCZ

Status: Proposed


Site overview

This massive offshore site, currently targeted by French fishing interests, promises to protect the greatest area of subtidal sand habitat of all the Marine Conservation Zones. These huge swathes of deep water subtidal sand lie over 100 metres below the waves and provide key foraging habitat for many commercially fished species. The MCZ will also protect other deep water habitats, and will be one of the few English MPAs to protect the seabed beyond our continental shelf. The deep rocky reefs found beyond the shelf-break support unique invertebrate and fish communities not found in shallower water.

There are very few sites that lie beyond 6nm that are properly protected in English seas. MCS believes this site should be considered for designation as a Highly Protected Marine Area where all human activities that negatively impact marine wildlife are prohibited.

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

5,800.51 km2 (2,239.59 mi.2)


360.12 km (223.76 mi.)

  • 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

  • Deep-sea bed

    The deep sea begins at the edge of the continental shelf (the area of seabed around the UK which is shallower than the open ocean), which is usually at depths over 200m. 

  • Celtic Sea Relict Sandbanks

    These sand banks are some of the largest examples of this feature on Earth and some of the ridges extend up to 200 km long, 15 km wide and 50 m high.

Did you know?…

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

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 170 parliamentarians from across the political spectrum signed up to our Marine Charter calling for a network of ‘marine protected areas’ in UK Seas