The Manacles

Site overview: Located on the southern coast of Cornwall this site extends 2 km from the coastline to encompass a series of large underwater rocky outcrops, known as The Manacles - which the site is named after. These rocky outcrops have been the site of many shipwrecks, which over time have been colonised by some of the species found in this area. The seabed varies hugely throughout the site and includes vertical rock faces and rocky reefs. This area is home to well-known species such as sea fans and anemones, as well as commercially fished species including common lobsters and crabs. The seabed also supports important marine maerl beds, a type of red seaweed. As this grows it deposits lime in its cell walls, creating a brittle skeleton. This, combined with slow growth, means that maerl is vulnerable to damage. The site supports a number of interesting animals such as the spiny lobster, the tiny stalked jellyfish and small sea fan anemones. Sea-fan anemones can group together to form large, closely-packed colonies. Their unusual method of reproduction leaves behind a train of fragments from the base of its body, which grow into new genetically identical anemones. 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 of the reefs and channels in order to gather information on the potential effects of the development of Dean Quarry. These divers have also monitored the pink sea fans in this area. It was found that there are extensive populations on the flatter rock and boulder seabed in this site. These surveys confirmed that these areas have healthy sea fan populations.

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° 2' 52" North,
5° 2' 56" West

Surface Area

3.49 km2
(1.35 mi.2 )


9.97 km
(6.19 mi.)

Iconic features protected by this site