sussex sovereign seascape
© Evan Jones

A sovereign seascape - Sussex's marine haven

Date posted: 8 June 2018

Stretching eastwards from the towering Beachy Head chalk cliffs, all the way to the famous Hastings Pier, and reaching six nautical miles out to sea beyond the Sovereign Lighthouse, Beachy Head East recommended Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) promises to be one of our largest inshore MCZs.

sussex lighthouse
© Herry Lawford

A combination of sandy seabed, gravel, rocky reef and submerged chalk cliff habitat provides home to shoals of bass, mackerel, black bream, whiting and cod. Plaice, gurnard, tope and the endangered undulate ray patrol the reef edges, on the prowl for crabs, lobsters and cuttlefish. Tompot blennies, short-snouted seahorses and colourful wrasse also make a living amongst a rich diversity of seaweeds and invertebrates. The ‘Bexhill Mussel Garden’, an extensive and intact blue mussel bed, was recently recorded by our Seasearch volunteer divers, whose ongoing surveys continue to reveal the precious marine wildlife found there.

The area has been valued as a special place by local sea-users since long before the term ‘Marine Conservation Zone’ was invented, yet despite local support for protection, the site has yet to be designated. Our Agents of Change project is working with fishermen, anglers, divers, councillors and MPs from the neighbouring towns of Eastbourne, Bexhill and Hastings to ensure the site is designated. This will mean that damaging heavy trawling and dredging gear is kept out, and the precious marine wildlife, as well as the local low-impact sea-users, can continue to thrive in this sovereign Sussex seascape.


This article was written by Peter Richardson, Head of Ocean Recovery (MCS), for our Spring 2018 membership magazine ‘Marine Conservation’. If you’d like to receive our fantastic quarterly magazine straight to your door, you can become a member from as little as £3.50 per month.

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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