South Dorset

Site overview: This site is located approximately 17.5 km south of St Alban’s Head, to the south-east of Swanage, and covers an area of approximately 193 km2, making it one of the largest Marine Conservation Zones, a type of Marine Protected Area. This site is important because it protects an area of seabed that ranges from 36 to 52 meters deep. The area also features reefs and sea caves which are home to rare species of sponge, edible crabs and velvet swimming crabs, as well as providing a nursery ground for important fish including sea bass and several types of flat fish. The sediment can also support species such as sandeels, which are an important food source for seabirds such as puffins, razorbills and guillemots. It is believed that the western section of this area may be an important wintering ground for spiny seahorses, when they move to deeper water.

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° 23' 14" North,
2° 12' 44" West

Surface Area

192.79 km2
(74.44 mi.2 )


68.86 km
(42.78 mi.)

Iconic features protected by this site


  • Moderate energy circalittoral rock (Broad-scale habitat)
  • Subtidal coarse sediment (Broad-scale habitat)
  • Subtidal chalk (FOCI habitat)