In Sussex there are nine Marine Conservation Zones, covering 22% of the Sussex seas. Since 2011, 91 sites have been designated nationally.
Tranche I: sites designated in 2013
One of only three places in the UK where the exceptionally rare Defolin’s lagoon snail occurs. Other species include the lagoon sand shrimp, found in Ferry Pool on the west side of the harbour, the beautiful starlet sea anemone, native oysters, adult eels and elvers.
This area contains excellent examples of rocky habitats, which support abundant marine life. Black sea bream favour this area and in the early summer months they aggregate in this are to build nests and lay their eggs.
Beachy Head West
A wave-cut platform of subtidal chalk gullies and ledges is home to all kinds of marine life here. Long and short snouted sea horses come to the are in the summer to breed. The surface of the chalk is pitted with holes, mostly caused by burrowing piddocks and boring worms. Ross coral, sponges, sea squirts, anemones, bryozoans and hydroids all cloak the chalk reefs.
Tranche II: sites designated in 2016
Utopia supports one of only two regional examples of fragile sponge, coral and anemone communities. Over 15 species of sponge have been recorded with many more yet to be identified. Named after the tope shark, this site is thought to be an important pupping grounds for this species.
Sand and gravel beds form important habitats for undulate and blonde rays, flatfish, tope sharks, sand eels and commercially important cod and bass. Ross worms form biogenic reefs which shelter a variety of smaller animals and juveniles. The whole site is extremely diverse, and thought to be one of the most species rich areas in the South East.
In the deeper waters of the English Channel the gravel seabed is less disturbed by wind and waves allowing a wider range of species to colonise it. The gravel and accompanying rocky reefs provides rich hunting grounds for skates, ray and other fish.
Tranche III: sites designated in 2019
Selsey Bill and The Hounds
Remarkable and unusual outcrops of limestone and clay are captured within this area.The numerous ledges and crevices provide homes for many marine species. These include short-snouted seahorses, squat lobsters and crabs. Bottlenose dolphins have also been recorded here. The hounds limestone reef is covered by a fascinating array of sea squirts, sponges and soft coral. Tompot blennies as well as leopard-spotted gobies are often seen on cliff ledges, whilst colourful wrasse are often observed near the top of the cliff face.
Beachy Head East
This area is characterised by Sovereign Shoals, an extensive wildlife-rich chalk and sandstone reef with outcrops of chalk. Soft corals also colonise the underside of slab surfaces together with tube worms. The biogenic reefs present provide homes for a diversity of marine life. Fish found amoungst this area include: short-snouted seahorses, cuckoo wrasse and large numbers of bib and poor cod.
Relatively rare for the south east region, this area features significant areas of exposed rocky reef. The rocky habitat is able to support a rich diversity of animal life, for example blue lobsters. Elsewhere in the area the movement of the thin veneer sediment which covers the rock can be colonised by a variety of species.
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