Beachy Head East is a Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) designated on the 31st May 2019. The site contains two marine Sites of Nature Conservation Importance (mSNCIs); the Royal Sovereign Shoals and the Horse of Willingdon Reef. Two protected wrecks are also incorporated in the site; Norman’s Bay and the Amsterdam.
The site is a large, inshore area approximately 193km². It is located east of Beachy Head and runs to Hastings, stretching out to just beyond six nautical miles from the coast at its furthest point.
Now the site has been designated, Sussex IFCA can start discussions with stakeholders regarding management measures. It is likely that it will take about two years for management to come into force, after designation, and we will endeavour to ensure that all interested parties are consulted during the development of the management. Stakeholders’ views are always considered during management development. We also take into account advice from Natural England and other organisations, as well as scientific evidence.
The area is characterised by the Royal Sovereign Shoals, an area of highly biodiverse sandstone and chalk, with areas of mixed sediments, sandy sediments and biogenic reef structures. Important subtidal chalk ledges, peat and clay exposures are also present. A diverse mixture of marine species are found at Beachy Head East, including sponges, anemones, sea squirts, erect bryozoans, encrustations of ross coral and starfish.
Rocky ridges at the Pound, near Eastbourne run roughly in line with the cliffs creating pools and lagoons at low tide. These are full of seaweed and other marine species.
Some of the best blue mussel beds in the region are contained within the site. The diverse habitats provide important feeding grounds for many fish species, including short-snouted seahorses, black seabream, native oysters and European eel. It is believed that herring spawn on the gravel beds in the early spring.
To see more information on the habitats and video clips of seabed surveys click here for our interactive map.
Links to further information
DEFRA MCZ pages
The Wildlife Trusts Beachy Head East Marine Conservation Zone page
Marine Conservation Society Beachy Head East (Royal Sovereign Shoals) MCZ page