Site overview: This underwater haven was actually named after the tope shark, which uses this area as an important pupping ground. Tope, a slender species of shark, is on the Vulnerable list and can grow up to two meters long and reach an age of 55 years. The key feature of this site, which is 3km2, is the discrete group of rock outcrops and boulders that support a rich biological community. These create a habitat for sponges and corals that would otherwise not exist in the area. Over 15 species of sponge have been recorded, with many more yet to be identified. Corals, such as dead man’s fingers, and white striped anemones are also common. Utopia was recognised as needing protection on the grounds that it hosts one of only two regional examples of fragile sponge, coral and anemone communities.
At risk: The seabed surrounding this area is made up of deep deposits of sand and gravel. Utopia is close to an aggregate extraction area, where the sand and gravel is dredged or taken up from the sea bed, for use in the construction industry. This causes damage not only to the sea bed itself, but also impacts the animals which live in the sand - as well as those that feed off them. Designation success Seasearch (a nation-wide network of scientifically trained scuba divers) completed a report recommending this area was designated in 2014. This report focused on the types of habitat found here.

Designation Status
Last Updated
6 June 2017
MPA Type
Marine Conservation Zone
MPA Purpose
to protect nationally important marine wildlife, habitats, geology and geomorphology


50° 39' 14" North,
0° 52' 29" West

Surface Area

2.71 km2
(1.05 mi.2 )


7.98 km
(4.96 mi.)

Iconic features protected by this site