Coquet to St Mary's MCZ

Status: Designated


Site overview

Coquet to St Mary’s is 198.75km2 just off the southern part of the Northumberland coastline, and includes both Coquet Island and St Mary’s Island. There is another protected area in this region known as Coquet Island Special Protection Area (SPA).  The seafloor is made up of a mosaic of habitats and drops to 30 meters in depth. These include three different rocky habitats and also mixed sediments, unique shoreline underboulder communities and estuarine rocky habitats.  Hard-rock cliffs are characteristic to the area, with many of the headlands fronted by rocky shore. Offshore at Blyth, there is a ridge of limestone close to the seashore, known locally as ‘the Trink’. It is partly covered by gravels, cobbles and some boulders - a perfect place for crustaceans to hide in. The different habitats within this area support thousands of seabirds and marine mammals, including 90% of the UK’s roseate tern population, as well as harbour porpoises, white-beaked dolphins and species of whale such as minke whale. Atlantic cod, ballan wrasse, goldsinny, pollack and octopus also live here.  Coquet Island is important for breeding and foraging seabirds and grey seals. St Mary’s Island’s rocky reefs are vital habitats for crustaceans to live in, and it is an important breeding site for the bizarre looking but lovable fish called the lumpsucker.

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

192.02 km2 (74.14 mi.2)


121.48 km (75.49 mi.)

  • Moderate energy circalittoral rock

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

  • Subtidal mud

    A very rich and diverse muddy undersea habitat that supports high numbers of worms, cockles and other shellfish, urchins and sea cucumbers as well as sea pens, burrowing anemones and brittlestars.

  • 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

  • Subtidal mixed sediments

    Undersea beds of a mixture of stones, gravels, sands and muds. Because mixed seabeds are so varied, they may support a wide range of animals, both on and in the sediment.

  • Intertidal mud

    The quiet water in sheltered estuaries and harbours allows very fine silt and clay to settle and form a layer of mud that can be exposed at low tide. These glistening muddy expanses can be packed ful of life and are sometimes called the ‘larders of the s

  • High energy intertidal rock

    Rocky seashores, exposed to very strong waves and currents.

  • Moderate energy intertidal rock

    Rocky seashores, above low tide, with some shelter from waves and currents. On these shores, there are places where plants and animals can find shelter from the waves – the landward sides of boulders, in cracks and crevices, and in rock pools.

  • Low energy intertidal rock

    Rocky seashores, sheltered from waves and currents dominated by seaweeds and exposed at low tide.

  • Intertidal sand and muddy sand

    The beach! Sandy shores are made up of clean sand or slightly muddy sand, often scattered with seashells and stones. The surface is often ‘rippled’ by the action of waves. Below the surface worms and shellfish stay safe and damp.

  • Intertidal mixed sediments

    Sheltered shores where there is a mixture of pebbles, gravels, sands and mud and there may also be rocks and a few large boulders. Because it’s diverse, it provides a home for a wide variety of animals.

  • 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.

  • High energy infralittoral rock

    Shallow water rock, below the tides, exposed to very strong waves and currents.

  • Moderate energy infralittoral rock

    Shallow water rock, below the tides, with some shelter from waves and currents.

  • Intertidal underboulder communities

    The marine life living under boulders on the seashore. These damp, shady spots are home to a different set of creatures that you don’;t find on the rest of the shore.

  • Peat and clay exposures

    Seabeds formed of exposed peat or clay, or in some cases both, which are very rare. Where they do occur they attract a variety of plant and animal life.

Seasearch Logo

Volunteer Seasearch divers surveyed parts of this area before it was designated. They found a sea bed with a mosaic of intertidal and sub-tidal rock, and sand and gravel seabed of conservation importance. During the dives a sighting of a rare Arctic cushion star was made and photographed - the first ever sighting of this species in English waters! At St Marys Island, kelp forests, boulder reefs and surge gullies were recorded, and vertical submarine cliff faces were festooned with filter feeding sponges, sea squirts, and other colourful animals. Divers also recorded a sighting of the ocean quahog, a species of edible clam which reportedly can live for up to 400 years.

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