Purbeck Coast: 1 of 41 Proposed MCZs in English Waters

We only have until the 20th July to let DEFRA know that we are behind the proposal of 41 new Marine Conservation Zones within British Waters.

In case you were wondering… Marine Conservation Zones “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” (JNCC).

The next in my series focussing on the current list of proposed Marine Conservation Zones is the Purbeck Coast.

The Purbeck Coast MCZ stretches from Ringstead Bay, west of Weymouth, along the beautiful Jurassic Coastline World Heritage Site to Swanage Bay. The proposed site covers 282 square kilometres.

This mesmerising stretch of coastline encompasses a plethora of intertidal and subtidal habitats, from coarse sediments to maerel beds. Rocky features support a variety of life, including sponge, bryozoan and hydroid species. These intertidal rocks provide vital habitats for key species like the peacock’s tail seaweed and stalked jellyfish. Rock pools in this area also support fish like shanny and could provide foraging area for oyster catchers.

Key Species

Peacock’s Tail (Padina pavonica)
  • A brown seaweed , curved like a fan, which is usually found within rockpools up to 20m depth.
  • A UK Biodiversity Action Plan Priority Species
  • Peacocks tail has been disappearing from British waters, so protection is required so that it doesn’t disappear entirely
Black seabream (Spondyliosoma cantharus)
  • This species migrate inshore to breed off the United Kingdom from March to May.
  • Males of the species construct a nest within gravel or sand where several thousand eggs will be protected. The males protect the nest until the eggs have hatched.

Stalked jellyfish (Haliclystus spp.)

  • These organisms spend their entire lives attached to seagrass or seaweed – the name ‘jellyfish’ is fairly misleading, although they do belong to the cnidarian group.
  • They prefer shallow areas and can be very sensitive to pollution and environmental change.

Key Habitats:

  • Subtidal coarse sediment
  • Subtidal mixed sediments
  • High energy intertidal rock
  • Moderate energy intertidal rock
  • Intertidal coarse sediment
  • Maerl beds

A vast array of activities will not be affected should this area be designated, like aquaculture and commercial shipping, due to them having a relatively low impact on the desired protected features

However, it is likely that the designation of this MCZ will result in restrictions to recreational angling and charter boats during the black seabream breeding season (April to July).

According to the Marine Conservation Society, if this site is designated in 2019, it will be one of the few sites within English waters where the black seabream is protected during the most important of its life stages.

What You Can Do

I’ve only discussed the Purbeck Coast here and highlighted its key attributes, but there are 40 other proposed MCZs all around the UK. There’s probably one near you!

Why don’t you also sign up for #GOPlasticFree with the Marine Conservation Society? July is only halfway through, and however you can reduce your plastic usage, whether by pledging to stop using single-use plastic straws, committing to only using your re-usable water bottle, or completely going #plasticfree, we can all help to reduce our impact on our blue planet.



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