South Wight Maritime SAC

Status: Designated


Site overview

This site is located on the southern shore of the Isle of Wight, off the coast of southern England. There is a huge variety of reefs here, including chalk, limestone and sandstone reefs. These are home to a diverse range of species, including a number of rare or unusual seaweeds such as the shepherd’s purse seaweed. ¬†This site also contains the only known subtidal chalk caves in the UK, which are home to rare algal species.¬†

MPA Type

Special Area of Conservation

Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) are strictly protected sites designated under European legislation. They contribute both to the UK MPA network and set up to protect habitat types and species considered to be most in need of conservation at a European level (excluding birds).

Designation date

1 October 1998

Surface Area

198.80 km2 (76.76 mi.2)


137.35 km (85.35 mi.)

  • Submerged or partially submerged sea caves

    Typically associated with reefs, caves that are either underwater all the time or welcome the sea at high tides, caves provide a habitat for a wide variety of plants and animals.

  • Reefs

    Areas where the bedrock, stable boulders and cobbles or structures created by animals arise from the surrounding seabed. They attract and provide a home to a huge variety of plant and animal life.

Seasearch Logo

Some Seasearch diving has taken place in the site over the geologically-diverse reef habitats and communities. The chalk reefs on the south-western side of the island (the Needles and Freshwater Bay) and limestone/sandstone reefs in the south-east off Bembridge have also been explored by volunteer divers. It is a challenging site to dive, exposed to the prevailing winds from the south-west along the English Channel.

Learn more about Seasearch

Did you know?…

Over 500,000 records on undersea habitats and species have been collected by volunteer Seasearch divers providing significant evidence for inshore ‘marine protected areas’

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

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