Holderness Inshore MCZ

Status: Designated


Site overview

Running from Skipsea to Spurn Point, Holderness Inshore runs along the coast of the East Riding of Yorkshire and is 317km2.  The seafloor here is really varied and is made up of cobble habitats, mixed sediment, sand, chalk, peat and clay. This is a perfect environment for sponges and ross worm reefs, as well as many fish, including tope and smoothhound. Over eight different types of crab have been seen here, as well as the common bloody henry starfish and common sunstars.  Harbour porpoises and minke whales are often spotted from the shore, passing through this area. Grey seals and thornback rays are also found here. The seaward side and northern part of this site are really important breeding and feeding grounds for seabirds, including little terns, black-legged kittiwakes, common guillemots, razor bills, Atlantic puffins, little terns, European shag, great cormorant, northern fulmar and northern gannet. This area is a major migration route and some birds stop here if bad weather blows them inshore, so you can also see other species here such as the little tern, brent goose, golden plover, knot, dunlin, curlew and redshank.  The area is popular for shore angling and is used by at least 13 charter boats; there is also some scuba diving at the site. The shingle spit at Spurn Head and accessible beaches along the Holderness coastline are popular for wildlife watching. Spurn Head is one of the most important birdwatching destinations in the UK in the migration season.

At risk Longshore drift and waves are damaging the low cliffs at nearby Withernsea - the cliffs are being eroded at a rate of two meters per year. A concrete sea wall and wooden groynes protect the base of the wall by breaking up the full force of the waves.

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

308.96 km2 (119.29 mi.2)


119.83 km (74.46 mi.)

Coordinates (central point)

53° 46' 32" North, 0° 2' 5" East

  • 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.

  • High energy circalittoral rock

    Rocky areas affected by strong waves or currents where the water depth means there is not enough sunlight so marine animal communities like sponges, sea firs and soft corals dominate and seaweeds are mostly absent.

  • 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.

Seasearch Logo

A team of divers from Seasearch Northeast and Seasearch East carried out surveys in 2012 in advance of site designation by Defra in order to assess the features of the site, their condition and extent.

Learn more about Seasearch

Did you know?…

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

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

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