Chesil Beach and Stennis Ledges

Site overview: This site covers the Chesil Beach, between Portland and Abbotsbury, extending out to sea for just under 2km, with an area which covers the reefs of the Stennis Ledges. Habitats here range from building-sized boulders with massive sponges to sponge and coral-rich rocky ledges. Just west of Portland, the seabed is strewn with huge boulders covered with some massive sponges. The stretch of sediment alongside Chesil Beach is home to starfish and brittlestars, queen scallops, burrowing anemones and otter shells. The Stennis Ledges is an area of parallel rocky reefs rich in reef species such as pink sea fans, sponges and bryozoans. Seasonal visitors, such as the grey triggerfish, are regularly reported at sites along Chesil Beach. Cuttlefish are found in large numbers in Chesil Cove, and male lumpsuckers brooding eggs are sighted there on an annual basis.
At risk: Use of heavy mobile bottom gear (trawls and dredges) in search of scallops has the potential to decimate reef habitats and the associated ecosystem, which are slow to recover in this area. Further inshore, small-scale potting and recreational angling activities are attracted by the fish and crustacean populations; impacts in the form of lost fishing equipment (line, hooks, rope, pots) and other litter are often seen at sites along Chesil Beach. This litter can have a detrimental impact on wildlife in the site, which may become entangled. Dive beneath the waves Seasearch, a national network of scientifically trained scuba divers has surveyed this site on a number of occasions. They were involved in detailed surveying prior to the site being protected, in order to gather information on what needed to be cared for within the site. Seasearch has also submitted evidence for other areas of the site to receive better protection after this area was designated a Marine Conservation Zone - a type of Marine Protected Area.

Designation Status
Last Updated
6 June 2017
MPA Type
Marine Conservation Zone
MPA Purpose
to protect nationally important marine wildlife, habitats, geology and geomorphology


50° 35' 34" North,
2° 31' 49" West

Surface Area

37.68 km2
(14.55 mi.2 )


43.50 km
(27.03 mi.)

Iconic features protected by this site