Marine Conservation Zones

Marine Conservation Zones update:
Bembridge site information not ready for consultation

The Bembridge site [which extends from St Helens to Luccombe] was not included in the first tranche of sites for consultation. Reasons are set out in Marine Conservation Zones: Consultation on proposals for designation in 2013: Annex A.3 – Balanced Seas sites requiring further consideration, which can be downloaded from DEFRA.
The following are extracts from that report:

Decision: Requires further consideration.



The area is used extensively by a number of sectors which is why there were considerable boundary discussions during the Regional Project process. The highest best estimate quantified cost of £164,000 per year falls to the recreation sector due to possible mitigation needed for anchoring over sensitive features.


After the Regional Project finished it came to light that the St Helen’s Roads anchorage was more heavily used than first thought by commercial shipping. Currently no mitigation has been found that would allow the anchorage to continue whilst meeting the conservation objective. If the anchorage is closed there is likely to be significant economic impacts that can’t currently be quantified. The Southern IFCA have introduced a voluntary code of conduct to encourage fishers to avoid the use of bottomtowed fishing gear within ‘Seagrass Protection Areas’ comprised of all of the Seagrass beds in the District.

Table 2. Sector Impacts & Assoc. Best Estimate Costs

Sectors Impacted Sectors Impacted Best Estimate Costs (£ per year)
Aggregate extraction 1,000
UK Commercial Fishing 14,000
Ports, harbours and shipping 3,000 + significant unquantified cost
Recreation (incl boating & sea angling) 164,000
Renewable energy (wind, wave and tidal) 1,000
Best Estimate Total Cost £ 183,000.

Data Certainty

Within this site four features have unacceptable data certainty, these include Subtidal mud, Seapens and burrowing megafauna, Lagoon sand shrimp (Gammarus
insensibilis) and Starlet sea anemone (Nematostella vectensis) and will require further work prior to their designation.


Although Bembridge recommended MCZ has been highlighted by the SNCBs as a site at higher risk, there is a strong indication that there could be significant unquantified costs due to the St Helen’s Road anchoring site impacting upon the meeting of the conservation objectives. Further work is needed to provide more clarity about the associated cost. Further work will also be required to improve the data certainty for some of the features prior to this site being considered for designation.

March 2013

Marine Conservation Zones not a threat

"I came here expecting to protest but I am going home much happier than when I came." was one long time Bembridge fisherman’s verdict on the Balanced Seas meeting held by Bembridge and St Helens Harbour Association on 1 November, at Brading Haven Yacht Club.

Sue Wells, Project Manager of Balanced Seas, spoke about the process of careful assessment and consultation which has led to the recommendation of Marine Conservation Zones and special small Reference Areas to protect the breeding and development of marine life and preserve the ecological balance, while taking into account the needs of local industry. She was joined by members of the Local Stakeholders Group responsible for the recommendations for a wide-ranging question and answer session.

The talk was attended by around 50 people, many of whom were concerned that the creation of these recommended MCZs and the more critical Reference Areas, might cause considerable restrictions to commercial fishing and to leisure activities. As the meeting progressed, and a number of searching questions were asked and answered, it became apparent that in the majority of these areas there is no threat and there would be no additional restrictions on the use of boats. There will be some restrictions in the small Reference Areas where anchoring, fishing, the removal of living animals, seaweed and the like, would be forbidden.

To fulfil its international obligations, the UK has embarked on a process to establish an ecologically coherent network of Marine Protected Areas in UK waters. The network will include both existing MPAs and Marine Conservation Zones, a new type of site intended to protect the full range of nationally important biodiversity, as well as certain rare and threatened species and habitats. Additional Reference Areas are places in which all extractive/ depositional activities are removed and all human derived disturbing or damaging activities appropriately mitigated to recover a designated feature to its unimpacted (reference) condition.

The Balanced Seas Project is responsible for identifying MCZs in southeast England, while the Regional Stakeholder Group (RSG) was responsible for making the MCZ recommendations and working through the associated issues. Recommendations have now been submitted to Government, which will initiate a public consultation process next year.

MCZs have been recommended for most of the Solent coast of the Wight, but the meeting was specifically concerned with the Bembridge MCZ which extends from Seaview to Bonchurch. There are six recommendations for Reference Areas: at Alum Bay, Newtown Creek, Kings Quay (Osborne Bay), Tyne Ledge (Bembridge), Culver Spit (Bembridge), and a sea area to the west of St Catherine’s Point.

For an overview of the final report and Bembridge documents, see Sentinel 44: Balanced Seas Project: some notes on the final report.

To download the pdfs from Balanced Seas, click on this link Resources.html . You need four documents:
1. Balanced Seas Final Report: Recommended Marine Conservation Zones [the main report; first pdf in the list]
2. rMCZ 22 Bembridge
3. rRA 15 Tyne Ledges
4. rRA 21 Culver Spit
[similar reports on other rMCZ and rRA are listed too.]

October 2011

Balanced Seas

Balanced Seas is a project working in partnership with all those with an interest in the marine environment to identify and recommend Marine Conservation Zones for the inshore and off-shore waters of south-east England.

Marine Conservation Zones will be set up under the Marine and Coastal Access Act of 2009 and are a new type of Marine Protected Area. Marine Conservation Zones will protect nationally important marine wildlife, habitats, geology and geomorphology. Stakeholders themselves will recommend these sites to Government and they will be designated at the end of 2012.

The challenge is to balance the importance of biodiversity conservation with economic activity. Working with all those with an interest in the project area is essential for success.

The Balanced Seas region is divided into 3 areas, and we are in the Solent, Isle of Wight & Hants group. The Project team at Kent University has to take account of all aspects affecting the location of potential sites, including economic impact.

  • Contact your sector spokesperson on the Regional Stakeholder Group. Visit the ‘Our Stakeholders’ section at to find out more about your sector representatives and email They will pass on your comments and help you get in touch with the right person.
  • Visit for the latest information including the detailed progress reports, meeting reports, and project guidance.

Further information on the Balanced Seas Regional Stakeholder Group and its members is available at in the ‘Our Stakeholders’ section.

An initial meeting in Cowes in November 2009 resulted in setting up a Regional Stakeholders Group (RSG) with representatives from key sector interests such as commercial fishing, angling, recreation, conservation, commerce, statutory bodies etc.Good progress is being made.

Commercial fisherman Mike Curtis of Captain Stan Fish Store and Alan Deeming of Bembridge Angling Club represented fishing interests at a recent RSG meeting held in Cowes. Mike Samuelson of BHUG also contributed to the Isle of Wight site meeting report - 7 February 2011, which singles out Bembridge as:

Perhaps the most diverse area of all, whose seagrass beds, rocky ledges and reefs provide particularly productive habitats for a large range of species, such as seahorses, lagoon worms, Stalked Jellyfish and rare seaweeds.

The report includes a major section on Bembridge Harbour including details of seabed and sealife not available elsewhere, as well as preliminary rating of conservation requirements. We strongly recommend downloading a copy: low and high resolution pdfs are downloadable here, under the heading 'Site Meeting Reports' .

You can read about the whole project at