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Kentish Knock East MPA

Status: Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ)

Kentish Knock East MCZ is located approximately 35 km off the east coast of England in the outer Thames Estuary.

The Kentish Knock East MCZ lies in the southern North Sea, across the 12 nm territorial sea limit. Therefore advice for this MPA is jointly delivered with Natural England.


Located 35 km off the east coast of England, Kentish Knock East MCZ is in the outer Thames Estuary. It is an inshore site with a small offshore section beyond 12 nautical miles from the coast.

The site lies across the 12 nm territorial sea limit, and therefore advice for this MPA is jointly delivered with Natural England.

Kentish Knock East MCZ protects examples of Subtidal coarse sediment, Subtidal sand and Subtidal mixed sediments. The seabed within the site is dominated by Subtidal mixed sediments, with a band of Subtidal sand and Subtidal coarse sediment in the deeper eastern part of the site. These protected broad-scale habitat features of the site support a range of animal species including ribbon and segmented worms, bivalve molluscs such as Abra alba and Kurtiella bidentata and echinoderms such as the brittlestar (Ophiura albida). Cnidarians, such as the anemone Urticina felina are also present alongside a variety of crustaceans including crab species and the burrowing shrimp (Callianassa subterranea). Fish species supported by the site include the small spotted cat shark (Scyliorhinus canicula) and flatfish species. Ross worm (Sabellaria spinulosa) reefs were also observed in three locations at the site, though the extent of these reefs could not be determined.

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

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

Map showing Kentish Knock East 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 coarse sediment Broad-scale habitat
Subtidal sand Broad-scale habitat
Subtidal mixed sediments 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 Kentish Knock East MCZ. More detail can be found within the Relevant Documentation section and in the post-consultation advice

September 2011
Regional projects recommended a total of 127 MCZs to Defra and the statutory nature conservation bodies (SNCBs).
June 2018 – July 2018
Kentish Knock East rMCZ included in formal consultation on Tranche Three rMCZs.
May 2019
Tranche Three designations announced – Kentish Knock East MCZ designated.


Relevant Documentation

The documents referred to below and any other historical documents relating to Kentish Knock East 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.

  • Kentish Knock East 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.
  • Natural England's pre- and post-consultation scientific advice for features proposed for designation in 2019.
  • Natural England and JNCC's formal conservation advice for this site is available in the Conservation Advice section.



Last updated: June 2020

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


Site overview

Kentish Knock East MCZ is situated approximately 35 km off the east coast of England in the outer Thames Estuary. It covers an area of 96.4 km2 and is relatively shallow, ranging in depth from 19–52 m. The site is located across one of several impressive sandbanks that have formed in the outer Thames Estuary between Kent and Essex. The seabed is predominantly mixed sediments with areas of sandy sediment and coarse gravel and pebbles towards the deeper eastern boundary of the site.

Kentish Knock East MCZ protects examples of Subtidal coarse sediment, Subtidal sand, Subtidal mixed sediments. This range of sediment habitats support a wide variety of animal species including worms, sponges, bivalve molluscs and echinoderms such as brittlestars and sea urchins. This diversity of species found on the surface and within the sediment also supports fish species including the small spotted cat shark (Scyliorhinus canicula) and flatfish species.

Kentish Knock East MCZ was proposed for designation in 2011 by the Balanced Seas regional MCZ project group and was designated in May 2019 as part of the third Tranche of MCZ designations. Evidence for the broad-scale habitats Subtidal coarse sediment, Subtidal sand, Subtidal mixed sediments was provided by the MB0129 survey in 2014, along with data from a Cefas survey (1998), the (2008) Outer Thames Estuary Regional environmental characterisation survey and data from the Greater Gabbard windfarm survey 2004/2005.

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: 96.4 km2.

Site depth range: 19–52 m.

Charting Progress 2 Biogeographic Region: Southern North Sea.

Site boundary description: The site is a simple polygon with eight boundary lines, in line with the guidance provided by the MCZ project Ecological Network Guidance (ENG). The eastern boundary of the site extends beyond the 12 nm territorial seas limit. The boundary of the Kentish Knock East MCZ has not changed since it was recommended by the Balanced Seas Regional MCZ Project in 2011.


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 Natural England’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 Defra-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.


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, please contact us.


Conservation Advice

Last updated: September 2021

JNCC and Natural England have published updated conservation advice for Kentish Knock East MCZ (September 2021). This advice is available through Natural England’s Designated Sites System for Kentish Knock East MCZ.

The advice reflects the most up-to-date evidence held by Natural England and JNCC. The conservation advice should be taken into consideration to assess the effects which a planned activity can have on the site’s integrity and when making decisions regarding management and consenting of marine activities in or near the site. 

For more information on JNCC’s approach to conservation advice please see our 'Conserving MPAs' webpage. Information can also be found on Natural England’s website.



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