South Dorset MCZ

Status: Designated


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.

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

192.79 km2 (74.44 mi.2)


68.86 km (42.78 mi.)

  • Moderate energy circalittoral rock

    Deeper water rock, with some shelter from waves and currents.

  • Subtidal coarse sediment

    Undersea beds of coarse sand, gravel and shingle. Most of the animals that live here, like bristleworms, sand mason worms, small shrimp-like animals, burrowing anemones, carpet shell clams and venus cockles, are found buried in the seabed – the safest pl

  • Subtidal chalk

    The chalk we see on our coastline can continue below the tide and create a very rich habitat for marine life. Becasue chalk is soft it is vulnerable to damage.

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This site is the target ofexciting surveys planned for 2018, to be carried out by technically-trained and experienced divers who can cope with the depth and challenging conditions.

Learn more about Seasearch

Did you know?…

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

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