Chesil Beach and Stennis Ledges MCZ

Status: Designated


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.

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

37.68 km2 (14.55 mi.2)


43.50 km (27.03 mi.)

  • Pink sea-fan (Eunicella verrucosa)

    A soft coral, related to tropical species and one of the most exotic-looking of our seabed animals. These delicately branched colonies of tiny animals are in turn home to other creatures.

  • High energy intertidal rock

    Rocky seashores, exposed to very strong waves and currents.

  • 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.

  • High energy infralittoral rock

    Shallow water rock, below the tides, exposed to very strong waves and currents.

  • Native oyster beds (Ostrea edulis)

    Native oysters are two shelled animals - one half is like a cup and attaches to the rock, the other is flat and forms a lid. In shallow water on fine, muddy sand, they can be found in huge numbers and form extensive beds, which become home to many other m

Seasearch Logo

Volunteer Seasearch divers have 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 and features of the site to receive better protection after it became an MCZ in November 2013. 

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

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