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Dolphin Head HPMA

Status: Highly Protected Marine Area (HPMA)

The Dolphin Head HPMA is located approximately 55 km South of Selsey Bill, West Sussex, in the Eastern Channel region, and partially overlaps with the Offshore Brighton Marine Conservation Zone.

Site

Located in the eastern English Channel, Dolphin Head HPMA is approximately 55 km South of Selsey Bill, West Sussex. The seabed within the HPMA (herein referred to as 'the site') is a mix a mix of high-energy circalittoral rock, sublittoral coarse sediment and sublittoral mixed sediments. Annex I Reefs are also present within this location, which includes bedrock, stony and biogenic Ross-worm (Sabellaria spinulosa) reefs.

The wide-ranging habitat types in the area more broadly support a range of benthic, demersal and mobile species such as sponges, tube worms, anemones, bivalves and fish.

More detailed site information can be found in the Summary section below.

Map displaying the Dolphin Head HMPA boundary. Visit JNCC's MPA Mapper to further view and explore data for this HMPA.

Map showing Dolphin Head Highly Protected Marine Area and linking to the MPA mapper

Legislation

Legislation behind the designation: Marine and Coastal Access Act (2009)

 

Protected features

Protected Feature Description
The marine ecosystem of the area All marine flora and fauna, all marine habitats and all geological or geomorphological interests, including all abiotic elements and all supporting ecosystem functions and processes, in or on the sea bed, water column and the surface of the sea.

 

Specific information on the conservation objectives related to Dolphin Head HPMA is provided in the Conservation Advice section.

The acquisition of new data may result in updates to our knowledge on feature presence and extent within this site. The evidence underpinning our knowledge of this site can be viewed in the Evidence section.

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Site Timeline

The timeline below provides a summary of the key milestones involved in the selection and designation of the Dolphin Head HPMA. More detail can be found in the Relevant Documentation section below. 

June 2021
Following recommendations of the Benyon Review, Defra committed to identify and designate pilot Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) in English waters.
August 2021 to September 2021
Five candidate HPMAs selected after social and economic criteria were applied to 30 areas of ecological interest (AEIs) identified by JNCC and Natural England.
July 2022 to September 2022
Formal public consultation on five pilot HPMAs – Dolphin Head included.
June 2023
Dolphin Head designated as pilot HPMA.

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Relevant Documentation

The documents referred to below and any other historical documents relating to the Dolphin Head HPMA were produced during the selection and designation process and therefore may be out of date.  This Site Information Centre is the most up-to-date source of information for this site, and will reflect any additional information gathered since these documents were produced. 

Further information about the Highly Protected Marine Area site selection process and historic advice is available on JNCC's HPMA webpage.

  • Dolphin Head Designation Order (2023) – Official description of the site designation as a HPMA under the Marine and Coastal Access Act (2009). The Designation Order includes boundary co-ordinates, conservation objectives and description of the designated feature. 
  • Dolphin Head HPMA Factsheet – outlines why Dolphin Head has been designated as a Highly Protected Marine Area (HPMA), provides an overview of the ecological importance of the site, where the site is located and current knowledge of the activities within the area.
  • JNCC’s pre-consultation advice and post-consultation scientific advice for Highly Protected Marine Areas proposed for designation in 2023.

JNCC's formal conservation advice for this site is available in the Conservation Advice section.

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Summary

Last updated: July 2023

The information for this site summary was adapted from documents listed in the Evidence section. Please refer to this section for further details and information sources. The summary also incorporates any further information gathered since these documents were produced.

 

Site overview

The Dolphin Head HPMA comprises of a mix of three broad-scale habitats (BSHs): high-energy circalittoral rock, sublittoral coarse sediment and sublittoral mixed sediments. Annex I Reefs, which are of significant conservation importance are also present within this site and include bedrock, stony and biogenic Ross-worm (Sabellaria spinulosa) reefs. Ross worm reefs are considered to be an extremely variable habitat type that consists of a diverse community structure. The wide-ranging habitat types in the area more broadly support a range of benthic, demersal and mobile species such as sponges, tube worms, anemones and bivalves. Sublittoral coarse sediments and sublittoral mixed sediments present within the site are known to be important habitats for attracting seabirds and marine mammals due to the common occurrence of prey species. At least three seabird species and two marine mammal species have been recorded within this area including the Lesser-black-backed gull (Larus fuscus) and Harbour Porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) respectively. In addition, the site has been recognised for its importance for the nursery and spawning behaviour of commercially important species of fish, such as Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) and European plaice (Pleuronectes platessa).

The site has a depth range of between 45 m and 62 m below chart datum and overlaps with the south-west boundary of the Offshore Brighton Marine Conservation Zone, which protects high-energy circalittoral rock, subtidal coarse sediment and subtidal mixed sediments, all of which are considered to be in unfavourable condition.

Defra responded to the recommendations of the Benyon Review and committed to designate a number of pilot HPMAs in English waters. Following the analysis of responses from a public consultation, Dolphin Head was designated as a HPMA in June 2023; extending protection to the entire marine ecosystem (seabed, water column, processes and all species) within the site.

Further detail on the evidence for this site can be found in the Evidence section.

Site location: Co-ordinates for this site can be found in the Designation Order listed in the Relevant Documentation section.

Site area: 466 km2

Site depth range: 45 to 62 m.

Charting Progress 2 Biogeographic Region: Eastern Channel.

Site boundary description: The site is a polygon comprised of five geodesic lines. The southern boundary lines lie adjacent to the UK Exclusive Economic Zone limit, the northern and eastern boundaries overlap with the boundary of Offshore Brighton MCZ.

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Evidence

Last updated: January 2024

The full overview of the various data used to support the Dolphin Head HPMA site identification in alignment with the selected ecological criteria is available in JNCC’s pre-consultation advice and post-consultation advice for Highly Protected Marine Areas proposed for designation in 2023.

JNCC will be adding relevant survey data for this HPMA to its MPA mapper in due course.

Some of the data for this site have been collected through JNCC-funded or collaborative surveys and some through other means.

 

Survey and data gathering

 

Data analysis reports

 

Additional relevant literature

References for further supporting scientific literature consulted during the identification of this site can be found in the annexes of our advice within the Relevant Documentation section.

Please be aware that although these sources contain information in relation to this site, they do not necessarily represent the views of JNCC.

  • Katara, I., Peden, W.J., Bannister, H. et al. 2021. Conservation hotspots for fish habitats: A case study from English and Welsh waters. Regional Studies in Marine Science, 44, p. 101745.
  • Parker-Humphreys, M. 2005. Distribution and relative abundance of demersal fishes from beam trawl surveys in eastern English Channel (ICES division VIId) and the southern North Sea (ICES division IVc) 1993-2001. Cefas Science Series Technical Report, 124, 92 pp.
  • Pettex, E., Laran, S., Authier, M. et al. 2017. Using large scale surveys to investigate seasonal variations in seabird distribution and abundance. Part II: The Bay of Biscay and the English Channel. Deep Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography, 141, 86-101.
  • Waggitt, J.J., Evans, P.G.H., Andrade, J., et al. 2020. Distribution Maps of Cetacean and Seabird Populations in the North-East Atlantic. Journal of Applied Ecology, 57, 253– 269.

 

Knowledge gaps

If you are aware of any additional information not referred in the Relevant Documentation section listed on the main page or the annexes of the advice documents, please contact us.

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Conservation Advice

Last updated: July 2023

Updated formal conservation advice for Dolphin Head HPMA is now available. Further information on the approach used to develop this advice is available in the HPMA High-level Conservation Advice developed jointly by JNCC and Natural England.

JNCC dispenses its obligations under Section 127 of the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 for this site through the delivery of  conservation advice for the HPMA.

You may also find it useful to refer to this advice if you:

  • intending to carry out any licensed activity in or near the site and need to find out how to operate within the law;
  • an authority providing advice on specific proposals; and/or
  • an authority responsible for putting management measures in place;. and/or
  • preparing or providing information for an impact assessment. You can find further information on undertaking MCZ impact assessments on the Marine Management Organisation’s marine licensing webpage.

We will engage with stakeholders to identify any lessons which JNCC can learn from customers who have used the advice, with a view to continuing to ensure it is fit-for-purpose. Should you have any queries regarding the conservation advice for this site or know of any information pertinent to the site that we should be aware of, please contact us at mailto:OffshoreMPAs@jncc.gov.uk

The following table provides an overview of the components of the conservation advice and provides hyperlinks to each of the products for this site. These elements together form JNCC’s formal conservation advice for this site and should be read in conjunction with each other. This advice reflects the most up-to-date evidence held by JNCC (correct as of July 2023). 

Document Overview
High-level Conservation Advice for Public Authorities on Highly Protected Marine Areas Provides generic advice to Public Authorities on whether activities are capable of damaging or otherwise affecting the protected marine ecosystem feature of an HPMA; specifically whether they are likely to hinder the conservation objective of a Highly Protected Marine Area or may not hinder it, if undertaken at non-damaging levels.

Dolphin Head HPMA Conservation Advice

Provides ecological information about the HPMA, the conservation objective, a description of the protected marine ecosystem feature and JNCC's view of its condition and the conservation benefits of affording the HPMA appropriate protection.

Provides information on those human activities that are capable of impacting the protected feature of the HPMA. These activities are grouped into those which are likely to hinder the site’s conservation objective and those which may not hinder the site conservation objective if carried out at non-damaging levels.

Advice on Operations Guidance

Provides guidance explaining the contents of the Advice of Operations workbook and how they can be considered when assessing the impacts on the site from a human activity.  

These resources are available from JNCC's Resource Hub

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Activities and Management

Last updated: July 2023

Management status: Progressing towards being well managed.

Progress is ongoing with the recommendation of fisheries management proposals and ongoing site condition monitoring work required in order to conclude with confidence as to the degree to which the site is moving towards or achieving its conservation objective.

A more precautionary approach to the management of activities is advised for HPMAs than is the case for existing MPAs. The government’s vision for HPMAs is that there would be no extractive, destructive or depositional activities but that other activities may occur at non-damaging levels.

Dolphin Head HPMA is designated as an MCZ under the Marine and Coastal Access Act (MCAA). No activities that pose a risk of hindering the HPMA conservation objective should be permitted (MCAA Section 126 (5)-(7)).

Management measures could include the introduction of byelaws, for example to prohibit commercial and recreational fishing activity, and will be introduced following designation.

High-level and site-specific conservation advice will provide further guidance related to management of HPMA sites to meet the conservation objective. Further information can be found in the Conservation Advice section above.

Other guidance documents will also be available to support Public Authorities in their duties in relation to the management of HPMAs under the Marine and Coastal Access Act.

 

Non-damaging levels of activity

Management measures for activities that are not extractive, destructive and depositional, most likely non-licensable and/or recreational, will depend on existing activity in the site and the sensitivity of the species or habitat to activities taking place in that area. Examples of non-licensable activities that may threaten biodiversity include motorised recreation and wildlife watching. Some of these activities currently occurring in the sites could be damaging to the species and habitats.

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Monitoring

Last updated: January 2024

JNCC undertook a baseline monitoring survey of the Dolphin Head HPMA in September – October 2023 to establish the first point in a time series of data to determine progress of the HPMA towards achieving its conservation objective.

  • RV Cefas Endeavour survey – This JNCC and Cefas CEND1823 survey aimed to conduct multibeam and baseline transient species surveys to help establish baseline information of the site.
  • RV Tom Crean survey (2023) - This JNCC and Irish Marine Institute TC23031 survey collected data about the condition of animals and habitats within the HPMA, helping us to establish the first point in a time series of data to determine progress of the HPMA towards achieving its conservation objective. More information is available in the survey blogs. 

 

For MPAs, data and evidence collected from monitoring activities will aim to:

  • Enable assessment of condition of the features within sites;
  • Enable assessment of the degree to which management measures are effective in achieving the conservation objectives for the protected features;
  • Support the identification of priorities for future protection and/or management; and
  • Enable Government to fulfil its national and international assessment and reporting commitments in relation to MPAs and help identify where further action may be required.

 

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©JNCC and Cefas

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