Marine Protected Areas


What are Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)?

MPAs are defined areas of the sea and coast where human activities which damage or disturb protected habitats and species are restricted. MPAs are essential for healthy, functioning, and resilient ecosystems. The UK Government has committed to developing a well-managed, ecologically coherent MPA network. This, supported by wider environmental management measures, will help protect our seas and their associated benefits for future generations.

What type of MPAs are there in Sussex?

There are several types of MPAs according to how, why and by whom they were designated. The Sussex IFCA district contains a suite of different MPAs:

  • Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) protect nationally important habitats, species, ecological processes, and geology.
  • European Marine Sites (EMS), comprising Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) which protect marine habitats or species of European importance, and Special Protection Areas (SPAs) which protect bird species of European importance and regularly occurring migratory birds.
  • Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) protect any area of special interest for its flora, fauna, geological or physiological features. These are coastal (and terrestrial) designations with some sites protecting marine features.
  • OSPAR sites (designated under the Oslo/Paris Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic) and RAMSAR sites (wetlands of international importance designated under the Ramsar Convention).

Under the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 (MACAA) and the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010, IFCAs have duties to manage these sites and further their conservation objectives.

Voluntary Marine Protected Areas

In addition to statutory designated sites, Sussex IFCA has a role in supporting and managing voluntary protected areas, these include:

Marine Sites of Nature Conservation Importance (MSNCI)
Seven Sisters Voluntary Marine Conservation Area (VMCA)

Sussex IFCA MPA Map

Marine Conservation Zones (MCZ)


Beachy Head East MCZ

Beachy Head East MCZ was designated in May 2019. The site is a large, inshore area covering approximately 193km². It is located east of Beachy Head and runs to Hastings, extending just beyond 6 nautical miles offshore. 

Designated Features: chalk; rock; sand; sediment; peat and clay; ross worm (Sabellaria) reef and short snouted seahorse

Management NE Conservation Advice

Beachy Head West MCZ

Beachy Head West MCZ stretches along the coastline from Brighton Marina to Beachy Head, with a gap at Newhaven. It extends half a nautical mile seaward from the mean high water line, covering approximately 24km2.  

Designated Features: intertidal chalk, rock and mixed sediments; subtidal sand and mud; littoral chalk communities; blue mussels; native oyster; and short snouted seahorse.

Management Research NE Conservation Advice
Seven Sisters The Living Coast

Kingmere MCZ

Kingmere was designated within the first tranche of MCZ sites in November 2013. It is 5-10km south of Littlehampton and Worthing and covers an area of 47km2.  

Designated Features: chalk; rock covered in a thin layer of gravel and sand; and black seabream

Management Research NE Conservation Advice

Pagham Harbour MCZ

Pagham Harbour was designated within the first tranche of MCZ sites in November 2013. The small coastal site is located between Bognor Regis and Selsey in West Sussex, measuring approximately 3km2.  

Designated Features: seagrass beds, defolins lagoon snail, Lagoon sand shrimp.

Management Research NE Conservation Advice

Offshore Overfalls MCZ

Offshore Overfalls was designated within the second tranche of MCZ sites in January 2016. This is an offshore site located roughly 18km east of the southern part of the Isle of Wight, crossing both the inshore and offshore boundaries and covering an area of 594 km². A small section of the site falls within the 6 mile limit to the northwest corner of the boundary. The rest is outside of 6nm and therefore the Marine Management Organisation is leading on its management.  

Designated Features: subtidal coarse sediments, mixed sediment and sand; English Channel outburst flood features (geomorphological feature).

As the site predominantly lies outside of the 6 nautical miles mark both fisheries and wider management needs are being assessed by the Marine Management Organisation (MMO)

JNCC Conservation Advice Management

Selsey Bill and The Hounds MCZ

Selsey Bill and the Hounds MCZ was designated on the 31st May 2019. The small inshore site is just under 16km² and is located by the town of Selsey in West Sussex, extending out seawards to include the Hounds rocky reef in the northwest and the rock features off the headland itself.  

Designated Features: intertidal rock; subtidal sand and mixed sediments; peat and clay exposures; short snouted seahorse

Management NE Conservation Advice

Utopia MCZ

Utopia was designated within the second tranche of MCZ sites in January 2016. The small inshore site measures 2.7km2. It consists of an outcrop of rock with large boulders, creating a reef-like feature that sticks up from the surrounding sediments approximately 20km east of Bembridge and 10km south-west of Selsey Bill. 

Designated Features: intertidal rock; subtidal coarse and mixed sediments; subtidal sand; Subtidal rock; and fragile sponge & anthozoan communities on subtidal rocky habitats.

Management Research NE Conservation Advice

European Marine Sites (EMS)


What are EMS?

EMS protect wildlife habitats and species of European importance through Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) and Special Protection Areas (SPA) that are covered by tidal waters. These sites contain some of England’s most vulnerable marine wildlife and habitats.

SAC are designated under the Habitats Directive to conserve marine habitats or species of European importance listed in Annex I and II of the Directive.

SPA, established under the Birds Directive, protect populations of bird species of European importance listed in Annex I of the Directive and/or regularly occurring migratory birds within the EU.

Managing fisheries in EMS

In 2012 Defra issued a revised approach to commercial fisheries management in EMS in English inshore waters, to ensure that all existing and potential commercial fishing activities are managed in accordance with the EU Habitats and Birds Directives.

Commercial Fisheries Management

Habitats Regulations Assessments for all fishing activity/feature interactions have been completed for every EMS within the Sussex IFCA district to determine whether management of an activity is required to conserve site features. The Authority has subsequently formulated management where necessary.

EMS in Sussex


Solent Maritime SAC

The Solent Maritime SAC is a complex cluster site encompassing a major estuarine system, covering 11325.09 ha, of which Chichester Harbour forms 7400 ha. The site includes both marine and estuarine areas.

Designated Features: estuaries and mudflats and sandflats not covered by seawater at low tide; a full list is contained within the conservation advice.

NE Conservation Advice

Chichester and Langstone Harbour SPA

Chichester and Langstone Harbours are located on the south coast of England in Hampshire and West Sussex. They are large, sheltered estuarine basins comprising extensive sand- and mud-flats exposed at low tide covering a total of 5810 Ha.

Designated Features: internationally important bird populations; a full list is contained within the conservation advice.

NE Conservation Advice

Pagham Harbour SPA

Pagham Harbour SPA lies between Bognor Regis and Chichester in West Sussex. The harbour, designated in 1988, has an area of 637ha and consists of many natural habitats contained within and around the small harbour.

Designated Features: over wintering brent geese and ruff; breeding common and little tern.

Management NE Conservation Advice

Dungeness to Pett levels SAC

The Dungeness foreland has a very extensive and well-developed shoreline, although with sparse vegetation and in places some human disturbance. It is one of two representatives of annual vegetation of drift lines on the south coast of England, covering an area of 3241ha.

Designated Features: annual vegetation of drift lines; a full list is contained within the conservation advice.

NE Conservation Advice

Dungeness, Romney marsh and Rye Bay SPA

Dungeness, Romney Marsh and Rye Bay SPA is located on the South coast, on the border of East Sussex and Kent. The site includes the largest and most diverse area of shingle beach in Britain, with low-lying hollows in the shingle providing nationally important saline lagoons, natural freshwater pits and basin fens. The site covers an area of 42417ha.

Designated Features: internationally important bird populations; a full list is contained within the conservation advice.

NE Conservation Advice

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