Lyme Bay and Torbay SCI

Status: Designated


Site overview

This site lies off the south coast of England, off the counties of Dorset and Devon. The site comprises two separate geographical areas (from east to west), the Lyme Bay Reefs and the Mackerel Cove to Dartmouth Reefs.  Lyme Bay is one of only five areas in the British Isles where the sunset cup coral is known to occur. Other important resident species include a nationally scarce sea sponge and the pink sea fan.  The sea caves found within the Mackerel Cove to Dartmouth reefs support a richness of animal life. Surfaces and walls inside the caves are home to a variety of sponges, bryozoan crusts, pink sea fingers, anemones and cup corals.

MPA Type

Site of Community Importance

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). Sites that have been adopted by the European Commission but not yet formally designated by the government of each country are referred to as Sites of Community Interest (SCIs).

Designation date

1 August 2010

Surface Area

312.73 km2 (120.75 mi.2)


243.86 km (151.53 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

Seasearch has been very active in the site, being one of the first organisations to illustrate the damage from scallop dredging in 2005 and 2006. Seasearch divers have been heavily involved in monitoring the sea fan populations in Lyme Bay between 2001 and 2006, which has coincided with an increase in scallop fishing intensity in the area.

Learn more about Seasearch

Did you know?…

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

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