Swallow Sand MCZ

Status: Designated


Site overview

This site is located in the northern North Sea where the offshore seabed is sandy, with some coarser gravelly and muddy patches. This is one of the largest Marine Conservation Zones (MCZ), a type of Marine Protected Area. This site has depths ranging from approximately 50m to 100m, with a drop down to 150m in the channel described as Swallow Hole Glacial Tunnel Valley. This area is important for sprat and mackerel.  During the summer the north-east area of the site is an area used by birds for foraging, including Atlantic puffins, black kittiwakes, common guillemots, northern fulmars and northern gannets.

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

4,746.19 km2 (1,832.51 mi.2)


281.15 km (174.70 mi.)

Coordinates (central point)

55° 45' 3" North, 0° 39' 47" East

  • Subtidal sand

    Sandy seascapes that can seem a bit like deserts, but can be full of life. Flat fish and sand eels camouflaged on the surface of the sand,worms and bivalves (with their paired, hinged shells) all live in places like these.

  • 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

  • North Sea glacial tunnel valleys: Swallow Hole

    A seabed channel where the depth drops down to 150m

Did you know?…

To the shelf limits, Scotland has 61% of UK waters, of which 23% are now in existing or new ‘marine protected areas’

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

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