The Needles MCZ

Status: Designated

Description

Site overview

This 11km2 area gets its name from The Needles, a row of three distinctive stacks of chalk off the western extremity of the Isle of Wight. The site has the only record for the stalked jellyfish in this region. It is also one of only a handful of locations of peacock’s tail seaweed - a brown alga that prefers warm water. Inshore around Alum Bay and the Needles, the seabed is predominantly chalk reefs with deep gullies. It is rich in seaweeds. In Totland and Colwell Bays, the seabed is largely sandy and supports seagrass meadows, which in turn host breeding colonies of sea hares - a type of marine slug. This area is an important site for black-headed gulls, cormorants and other seabirds which come to forage for food. 

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

11.02 km2 (4.26 mi.2)

Perimeter

19.70 km (12.24 mi.)

  • Peacock’s tail  (Padina pavonica)

    A brown seaweed that is found in rock pools and to a depth of up to 20m. It is shaped like a curved fan, hence the name.

  • Stalked jellyfish (Lucernariopsis campanulata)

    Bell-shaped, jelly-like, eight-armed animals that have a stalk and a sucker which they use to attach to marine plants, rocks or the seabed. Some species can move and do so by cartwheeling.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Seagrass beds

    Seagrasses (also known, for their long thin leaves, as eel grass) are grass-like flowering plants with dark green, long, narrow, ribbon-shaped leaves. They are one of the very few groups of flowering plants that live in the sea.

  • 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.

  • Native oyster beds (Ostrea edulis)

    Native oysters are two shelled animals - one half is like a cup and attaches to the rock, the other is flat and forms a lid. In shallow water on fine, muddy sand, they can be found in huge numbers and form extensive beds, which become home to many other m

  • Sheltered muddy gravels

    Muddy gravels occur mainly in estuaries, drowned river valleys and sea lochs, in areas protected from wave action and strong tidal streams. They can be found both on the shore and in the shallows.


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In 2014 Seasearch compiled a report based on their observations of this underwater world. This evidence was submitted as part of the consultation into this site and helped secure its designation.

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