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East of Start Point MPA

Status: Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ)

East of Start Point MCZ is located 20 km off Torquay and 19 km south of Lyme Bay in the Eastern Channel region. Advice for this MPA is jointly delivered with Natural England.


Located in the Eastern Channel region, approximately 20 km off Torquay and 19 km south of Lyme Bay, East of Start Point MCZ contains the protected broad-scale habitat feature Subtidal sand.

The site lies mostly offshore but the north-west corner extends into inshore waters. The site lies across the 12 nm territorial sea limit and therefore advice for this MPA is delivered with Natural England.

The site covers an area of 116 km2, protecting the broad-scale habitat feature of Subtidal sand. The seabed within East of Start Point MCZ is predominantly composed of subtidal sand, supporting a range of animals found on the surface of the sand and buried within it, such as worms, bivalve molluscs (such as razor clams and mussels) and flat fish. The site is a spawning and nursery ground for a number of fish species such as lemon sole (Microstomus kitt), sand eels (Ammodytes tobianus), mackerel (Scombre scombrus), thornback ray (Raja clavata) and spotted ray (Raja montagui).

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


Map displaying the East of Start Point MPA boundary and associated protected feature data. Visit JNCC's MPA Mapper to further view and explore data for this MPA.

Map showing East of Start Point Marine Protected Area and linking to the MPA mapper


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


Protected Features

Protected Feature Feature Type
Subtidal sand Broad-scale habitat

Specific information on the conservation objectives related to this site 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 most up-to-date information is reflected on the map on this page and in JNCC’s MPA Mapper and the evidence underpinning this can be viewed in the Monitoring and Evidence section.


Site Timeline

The diagram below is a summary of the key milestones involved in the selection and designation of the East of Start Point MCZ. More detail can be found within the Relevant Documentation section and in the post-consultation advice.

Shortfall identified for Subtidal sand in the Irish Channel Region of the MPA network. East of Start Point developed as a new site option to address shortfall.
June 2018 – July 2018
East of Start Point MCZ included in formal public consultation on Tranche Three MCZs.
May 2019
Tranche three designations announced – East of Start Point MCZ designated.


Relevant Documentation

The documents referred to below and any other historical documents relating to East of Start Point MCZ 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 MPA, and will reflect any additional information gathered since these documents were produced. Further information about the Marine Conservation Zone site selection process and historic MCZ advice is available on JNCC's MCZ webpage.

  • East of Start Point MCZ Designation Order – the official description of the site designation under the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009. The Designation Order includes boundary co-ordinates, Conservation Objectives and a list of the designated features. More information on the designation, including a designation map and factsheet is available on Defra's website.
  • JNCC's pre- and post-consultation scientific advice for features proposed for designation in 2019.
  • JNCC's formal conservation advice for this site is available in the Conservation Advice section.



Last updated: July 2020

Information for this site summary was adapted from JNCC’s scientific advice to Defra on East of Start Point MCZ and incorporates any further information gathered since this advice was produced. Please refer to the Relevant Documentation section for further details and information sources.


Site overview

Situated in the Eastern Channel region, East of Start Point MCZ lies approximately 20 km off Torquay and 19 km south of Lyme Bay. A small portion of the site’s north-west corner lies just inside the 12 nm line, within inshore territorial waters. The rest lies in offshore waters. The site is relatively shallow, ranging in depth from 25 m down to 50 m and covers an area of 116 km2. The seabed here is dominated by Subtidal sand. A wide variety of species live on and bury in the sand (e.g. worms and bivalve molluscs such as razor clams). The site is a spawning and nursery ground for a number of fish species such as lemon sole, sand eels, mackerel, thornback ray and spotted ray. Species are reliant to greater and lesser extents on the protection afforded to the Subtidal sand as a designated feature of the site.

East of Start Point MCZ was first presented in 2016 as a new site option to fill a network shortfall in the Eastern Channel Region for the broad-scale habitat feature Subtidal sand. JNCC identified an Area of Search (AoS) for this habitat based on biophysical data underpinning a habitat map created by Cefas and The Wildlife Trusts. This evidence supported the presence and extent of the Subtidal sand broad-scale habitat within the AoS and formed the basis of JNCC’s pre- and post-consultation advice to Government on the designation of East of Start Point.

Further detail on the evidence for this MCZ can be found in the Monitoring and Evidence section.

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

Site area: East of Start Point MCZ is a relatively small site in terms of MCZ designations, with an area of 116 km2. This is approximately twice the size of Torbay itself.

Site depth range: 25–50 m.

Charting Progress 2 Biogeographic Region: Eastern English Channel.

Site boundary description: The boundary for East of Start Point MCZ is comprised of four geodesic lines, forming a simple rectangle in line with the guidance provided by the MCZ project Ecological Network Guidance (ENG). The north-east corner of the rectangle cuts through the territorial sea limit.


Monitoring and Evidence

Last updated: November 2023

Site-specific data

There are a range of data that underpin this MCZ. The full overview of these data used to support site identification along with information on confidence in feature presence and extent is available in JNCC’s Tranche Three MCZ pre-consultation and post-consultation scientific advice for offshore Marine Conservation Zones proposed for designation in 2019. JNCC will be adding relevant survey data for this MPA to its MPA Mapper in due course.

Some of the data for this MCZ have been collected through JNCC-funded or collaborative surveys and some through other means. Data from these surveys provide direct evidence confirming the presence of the protected features within the site.


Survey and data gathering


Knowledge Gaps

As part of the UK Marine Monitoring and Assessment Strategy (UKMMAS), JNCC led the development of a UK Marine Biodiversity Monitoring Strategy, working with partners across the UK monitoring community. The Strategy spans UK territorial and offshore waters, focusing on biodiversity in the wider environment and within Marine Protected Areas.  Its aim is to implement efficient, integrated monitoring of marine biodiversity to provide the evidence needed for all the UK's policy drivers.

The evidence collected during MPA monitoring surveys is used in combination with other available evidence to:

  • Enable assessment of condition of the features within sites;
  • Contribute to the 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.

More detail on offshore MPA monitoring can be found on the Offshore MPA monitoring webpage. A list of monitoring surveys and relevant reports can be found  on the MPA monitoring survey reports webpage.

If you are aware of any additional information not referred to in the Relevant Documentation section or above, please contact us.


Conservation Advice

Last updated: July 2020

The overarching conservation objectives for the site is for its designated feature either to remain in or reach favourable condition. The ability of a designated feature to remain in or reach favourable condition can be affected by its sensitivity to pressures associated with activities taking place within or in close proximity to a protected site.

Formal conservation advice is not currently available for this MPA and will be added in due course. JNCC will work alongside Natural England to develop a joint conservation advice package for this site.

In the interim, please see JNCC’s Tranche 3 MCZ post-consultation advice for more detail.

Further information on JNCC’s approach used to develop conservation advice packages is available on our 'Conserving MPAs' webpage along with a Glossary of Terms used in JNCC conservation advice and a short video explaining how to use the conservation advice packages.



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