Marine Conservation Zones

Sea Slug by Jason ArmstrongSea Slug by Jason Armstrong

The Government launched their long-awaited public consultation on the second batch of Marine Conservation Zone designations on Friday 30th January 2015.

The Government included just 23 of their 37 candidate sites, leaving the promised national network a very long way from completion.  It is a relief that the three Kent sites are still on the shortlist:  The Swale,  Dover to Deal,  and Dover to Folkestone.   However, the Government needs to hear resounding support for these wonderful sites (and for the whole network) before the consultation closes - on Friday 24th April. 

Please ensure you have your say.  Our national website leads you through what you need to do:  

Personalised responses really matter, but we've make it really easy for you to insert your own words into our website and submit a response direct to Defra. There is background information about the sites, and guidance to help you. It doesn't have to be long, just a note that shows that you care and want to see our marine wildlife protected. 

Please mention our Kent sites by name. See below for our briefing notes relating specifically to our three Kent sites, which you may find useful for your response. 



This diverse site is very important for the network.  The consultation proposes 20 features for protection - the second highest number of features contained in a single site in this consultation. 

This site contains one of the best examples in the region of intertidal chalk communities, and the best example of intertidal under-boulder communities - special animal life which thrives on the damp and shaded undersides of the chalk boulders on the shore.  This site fills a gap in the network for clay exposures and for its intertidal rock. 

It is disappointing that the site boundary has been moved 500m away from Dover harbour wall, which means that the short-snouted seahorse (recorded in the now-excluded section of the recommended MCZ) will no longer protected.  It is disappointing that 5 other features present in the site have been omitted from the list for protection, due to insufficient evidence.  However, there is good evidence for the 20 features proposed.


This site is very important for the network. The consultation proposes 13 features for protection, and there is good evidence for all of these.

This site contains the best example in the region of wave-cut chalk platform shores, and St Margaret's Bay has one of the richest communities of seaweeds in the whole south east.  The subtidal chalk reefs and blue mussel beds are other important habitat features listed for protection. The site contains the best example in the region of rossworm reefs, which unusually occur on the chalk shore as well as in the subtidal area.  The site helps to address a gap in the network for rossworm reefs, and for intertidal under-boulder communities - periodic cliff falls result in areas of the shore being covered in chalk boulders which provide refuge for sponges and other attached animal life in the damp and shaded undersides.

It is disappointing that the site boundary has been moved 500m away from Dover harbour wall, which will exclude areas of important intertidal and subtidal chalk.  It is disappointing that 6 broad habitat types present in the site have been omitted from the list of features to protect, due to insufficient evidence.


This highly biodiverse site is very important for the network. The consultation proposes 13 features for protection, and there is good evidence to support these.  The site contains some of the best examples of exposed London Clay, a habitat feature which is irreplaceable, having formed millions of years ago.  It also contains rare seaweed communities on shingle and important fish nursery and spawning grounds.  The proposed protection of subtidal habitats will complement the existing protected areas on the shores of the Swale. There are indications that there is good scope for shellfish recovery within the site. 

It is very concerning that Defra is not proposing blue mussel beds for protection in this site, claiming there is 'insufficient supporting evidence' when their advisors, Natural England, have high confidence in the evidence for this feature occurring in this site.  Blue mussel beds are extremely important to the local wildlife, harbouring numerous species and providing a food source for birds.

Thanks to Shoresearch and Seasearch

The consultation documents list many of Kent Wildlife Trust's Seasearch and Shoresearch surveys as having supplied data to support designation of these sites.  Grateful thanks to all our marine survey volunteers. 


Further background

A network of 127 Marine Conservation Zones was recommended to Government in 2011, selected during a 2 year consultation process by four regional stakeholder groups containing representatives of all sea users.

A first batch of 27 Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) was designated in November 2013, and this included three around Kent: The Medway Estuary,  Thanet Coast,  and  Folkestone Pomerania. 

The Government committed to designating two further batches of MCZs by the end of 2016, and in February 2014, Defra announced their list of 37 candidate sites for the second batch. Fourteen of these sites have already been dropped from the 2015 consultation.  We cannot afford to lose any more.

We owe huge thanks to everyone who responded to the public consultation on the first batch of MCZs in 2013, helping to ensure that most of them made it through to designation.  We are now asking for your help once again, by writing a response to the current consultation. 

Marine Conservation Zones around Kent:

Proposed for possible designation in 2015, dependent on the consultation
The Swale
Dover to Deal
Dover to Folkestone

Designated in 2013
Medway Estuary
Thanet Coast
Folkestone Pomerania

Recommended in 2011, but not yet progressed towards designation
Goodwin Sands
Offshore Foreland
Thames Estuary
Kentish Knock East

Decision deferred until 2016

The decision on Hythe Bay MCZ has been deferred until 2016, when we are hopeful that the site will be designated and a suitable management solution reached, so that we can take proper care of the rare and very special wildlife in the Bay and ensure it can continue to underpin a healthy local fishery into the long-term future.

Kent Wildlife Trust will, of course, be working hard to secure designation and protection of all the MCZs around Kent that were recommended by the Balanced Seas’ Regional Stakeholder Group.

Recommended Marine Conservation Zones for southeast seas

31 MCZs were recommended to Government in 2011 by representatives of all sea users in the South East. Of these, 9 were put forward by Government for designation in 2013 but only 7 were designated (in November 2013). The Stour and Orwell, Wight Barfleur Extension and East Meridian (West) recommended MCZs have all been deleted from the network, and a decision on Hythe Bay has been deferred until 2016. 

Ten further MCZs around the SE were shortlisted as candidates for the second batch of designations in 2015, but only 7 have remained on the shortlist in the consultation. This leaves 14 MCZs in the SE which were recommended by the Balanced Seas project with their future left hanging in the balance - they will not even be considered for possible designation until 2016.  

Map of Kent with the proposed marine conservation zones

Protected areas, including Marine Conservation Zones, form one of the most crucial tools for conserving marine wildlife.

Eleven key marine wildlife sites in our local Kent seas were identified and recommended to Government in 2011 for designation as Marine Conservation Zones under the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009.

These MCZ recommendations were developed by the Balanced Seas’ Regional Stakeholder Group, comprising representatives of all the sea user groups, and they form an important part of the network of 127 recommended MCZs around England.

The Government made a commitment to establish a full network of protected areas by the end of 2012, but only 27 of the 127 recommended MCZs have so far been designated.

These few scattered sites will not function as an ecological network.

Please lend your support to help us ensure a full network is designated by 2016.

Watch the video clips to get a glimpse of what lives in our local recommended MCZs:

Dover to Deal MCZ
Dover to Folkestone MCZ
Goodwin Sands MCZ
Folkestone Pomerania MCZ
Hythe Bay MCZ
Swale Estuary MCZ

Kent's recommended Marine Conservation Zones

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