Cumbria Coast MCZ

Status: Designated


Site overview

This is an inshore site that stretches for approximately 27 km along the coast of Cumbria. It extends from south of Whitehaven, around the cliffs at St Bees Head, to the mouth of the Ravenglass Estuary. The total area of the site is approximately 18 km2.  St Bees Head supports the best, most extensive and important examples of intertidal rocky shore in North-West England. Large numbers of sponges, sea squirts, barnacles, tube worms, crabs and lobsters call these boulders home.  Around St Bees Head and at Kokoarrah Rocks the underwater seabed is covered in kelp and a rich turf of red seaweeds, this is one of the best sites for such algae within the area. The surrounding area is particularly important for seabirds with an estimated 10,000 using the area to breed. 

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

18.11 km2 (6.99 mi.2)


68.59 km (42.62 mi.)

  • Intertidal biogenic reefs

    A biogenic reef is a reef made from the hard parts of living things. In England honeycomb worms and mussels both form this type of reef where they occur in large numbers.

  • High energy intertidal rock

    Rocky seashores, exposed to very strong waves and currents.

  • Intertidal sand and muddy sand

    The beach! Sandy shores are made up of clean sand or slightly muddy sand, often scattered with seashells and stones. The surface is often ‘rippled’ by the action of waves. Below the surface worms and shellfish stay safe and damp.

  • Moderate energy infralittoral rock

    Shallow water rock, below the tides, with some shelter from waves and currents.

  • Honeycomb worm reefs (Sabellaria alveolata)

    Honeycomb worms build tubes from sand and shell fragments. Where these worms life close together their tubes from large reefs that provide habitat for animals and seaweeds.

  • Intertidal underboulder communities

    The marine life living under boulders on the seashore. These damp, shady spots are home to a different set of creatures that you don’;t find on the rest of the shore.

  • Peat and clay exposures

    Seabeds formed of exposed peat or clay, or in some cases both, which are very rare. Where they do occur they attract a variety of plant and animal life.

Did you know?…

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

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