Tamar Estuary Sites MCZ

Status: Designated


Site overview

The Tamar Estuary Marine Conservation Zone, a type of Marine Protected Area, is actually located in two separate areas. The total area is approximately 15 km2 and includes the upper area of the Tamar and Lynher estuaries. Both areas are home to saltmarsh and intertidal mudflats; mussel beds have been recorded here. These mussels form a type of reef, as their shells are bonded together with mud and sand, and by the sticky thread or “beards”” of the mussels. These living reefs are ecologically important as they provide a home for seaweeds and animals including barnacles, winkles and small crabs. The estuaries are also the only known home to smelt

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

15.26 km2 (5.89 mi.2)


201.17 km (125.00 mi.)

  • Smelt (Osmerus eperlanus)

    Smelt are fish related to the salmon.  They shoal in the salty water of estuaries and around the mouths of rivers.  Early each year they come upriver to breed in fresh water before returning to the sea. Many populations are now extinct.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Blue mussel beds (Mytilus edulis)

    These small, blue mussels are a common sight on UK coasts and form large beds in some places. They are particularly important where they create a haven for other creatures like starfish, crabs and anemones in otherwise sandy or muddy areas. 

  • 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

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

Over 500,000 records of undersea species and habitats have been collected by volunteer Seasearch divers