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Offshore Brighton MPA

Please be advised that Dolphin Head HPMA partially overlaps with Offshore Brighton Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ). Where this overlap occurs, the conservation advice for Dolphin Head HPMA supersedes that published for Offshore Brighton MCZ. The area of overlap will also be subject to the higher levels of protection.

Status: Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ)

Offshore Brighton MCZ is located in the eastern English Channel, approximately 45 km south of Selsey Bill, West Sussex. The seabed is predominantly coarse sands and gravel with areas of exposed bedrock and mixed sediments.




Located in the eastern English Channel, Offshore Brighton MCZ is approximately 45 km south of Selsey Bill, West Sussex. The seabed is predominantly coarse sands and gravel with areas of exposed bedrock and mixed sediments.

The site protects 862 km2 of seabed with a diverse range of species found living within and on top of the sediments. Hydroids, bryozoans and sponges colonise the boulders and cobbles, where hermit crabs and starfish also thrive. An assortment of burying animals such as worms, sea anemones and bivalves are commonly found living within the mixed sediments.

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

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

Map showing Offshore Brighton 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
High energy circalittoral rock Broad-Scale Habitat
Subtidal coarse sediment Broad-Scale Habitat
Subtidal mixed sediments Broad-Scale Habitat

Specific information on the conservation objectives relating 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. The underpinning evidence used in the maps can be viewed in the Evidence section.


Site Timeline

The diagram below is a summary of the key milestones involved in the selection and designation of Offshore Brighton MCZ.  More detail can be found in the Relevant Documentation section and Annex 3 of JNCC's Advice on possible offshore MCZs considered for consultation in 2015.

September 2011
Regional projects recommended a total of 127 Marine Conservation Zones (rMCZs) to Defra and the statutory nature conservation bodies (SNCBs).
January 2015 – April 2015
Offshore Brighton rMCZ included in formal consultation on Tranche Two rMCZs.
January 2016
Tranche Two MCZs designations announced – Offshore Brighton MCZ designated.


Relevant Documentation

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. Therefore, some documents referred to below and any other historical documents relating to Offshore Brighton MCZ produced during the selection and designation process may be out of date. Further information about the Marine Conservation Zone site selection process and historic MCZ advice is available on JNCC's MCZ's webpages.



Last updated: December 2018

Information for this site summary was adapted from  JNCC’s pre- and post-consultation advice for Tranche Two MCZs (January 2016), in conjunction with the MCZ site report produced by Cefas for the MB0120 survey (September 2015). Please refer to these documents for further details and information sources. The summary also incorporates any further information gathered since these documents were produced.


Site overview

Offshore Brighton MCZ lies in the deeper waters of the Eastern-English Channel, 45 km from the coast, and located to the south of the Offshore Overfalls MCZ. Its south-eastern and south-western corners meet the median line due south of Brighton where the water depths range between 40 m and 80 m. The site includes coarse and mixed sediments with areas of exposed rock. Offshore Brighton MCZ was originally recommended by the Balance Seas Regional MCZ Project in 2011 and is considered to be an important representation of high energy circalittoral rock within the 75–200 m depth bracket.  The site was prioritised for additional evidence collection in a verification survey undertaken by JNCC and Cefas in 2012 to improve confidence in the presence and extent of broad-scale habitats and habitat Features of Conservation Importance (FOCI).

The survey collected sediment samples, video tows and camera stills data as well as opportunistic acoustic data within the site.  The survey work confirmed the presence of broad-scale habitats (BSH) high-energy circalittoral rock and subtidal mixed sediments along with an additional BSH, subtidal coarse sediment. These three broad-scale habitats were designated as protected features within the site in January 2016. The BSH subtidal coarse sediment is the most widespread, occupying 58% of the MCZ and located mainly in the western area. The BSH subtidal mixed sediments is found in the eastern third of the site and occupies 27% of the area. The regional sediment distribution is influenced by a large scale geomorphological feature; the English Channel Palaeovalley System. The BSH high energy circalittoral rock is exposed where a tributary channel system merges with the deeper paleo-valley in the northwest of the site and occupies 15% of the total MCZ. 

Offshore Brighton MCZ was included in the proposed network because of its contribution to Ecological Network Guidance (ENG) criteria to BSH, and its added ecological importance. From the 2012 survey, a total of 167 infaunal and 63 epifaunal taxa were recorded. This data was revisited by JNCC in 2014 and communities were statistically analysed to reveal potential biotopes present within the site. From the infaunal data analysis, JNCC concluded the community across the site could be matched to A5.451 Polychaete-rich deep Venus community in offshore mixed sediments which is a diverse community particularly rich in polychaetes (worms) with significant numbers of venerid bivalve (Venus clams). The epifaunal community appeared to be dominated by two biotopes including A5.444 Flustra foliacea and Hydrallmania falcata on tide-swept circalittoral mixed sediment, dominated by the hornwrack (Flustra foliacea) and the hydroid Hydrallmania falcata represents part of a transition between sand-scoured circalittoral rock and a sediment biotope. The second possible biotope was identified as A5.445 Ophiothrix fragilis and/or Ophiocomina nigra brittlestar beds on sublittoral mixed sediment, dominated by brittlestars (hundreds or thousands per square metre).

The full report of this analysis and further detail on the evidence for this MCZ can be found in the Evidence section.

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

Site area: 862 km2 which is roughly ten times the size of Brighton.

Site depth range: 40 m to 80 m.

Charting Progress 2 biogeographic region: Eastern Channel.

Site boundary description: The location and shape (a large rectangle) of the site was chosen to capture the features and areas of biodiversity richness described above. However, given the comparatively large area of ocean involved, it was possible through discussions at the stakeholder meetings to design the boundaries so that socio-economic impact to both the UK and French fishing fleets that use this area extensively was reduced. The lower boundary was set to avoid the scallop French fisheries area to the south of the site. The site boundary was also moved as much as possible to the west to avoid areas to the east heavily used by both UK and Belgian mobile fleets (Offshore Task Group 2, March 2011).



Last updated: January 2022 

The full overview of the various data used to support site identification, along with information on confidence in feature presence and extent is available in JNCC's advice on offshore Marine Conservation Zones proposed for designation in 2015, as well as JNCC's post-consultation advice for Tranche Two offshore Marine Conservation Zones proposed for designation in 2016. JNCC will be adding relevant survey data for this MCZ to its MPA mapper in due course.

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


Survey and data gathering

  • Offshore Overfalls MCZ and Offshore Brighton MCZ Survey (2020) – JNCC collaborated with Cefas on a data gathering and monitoring survey undertaken in January 2019. Video, still images, multibeam bathymetry data, grab samples and DNA samples were collected. The Offshore Brighton MPA Monitoring report will be published online when available. The JNCC offshore survey blog provides an account of this survey.
  • Offshore Brighton MCZ MB0120 Survey (2012) – JNCC collaborated with Cefas on an MCZ site verification survey to Offshore Brighton MCZ, funded through the MB0120 Defra data collection. Video, images, acoustic data and grab samples were collected across the site. 


Data analysis reports

  • JNCC Community Analysis of Offshore Brighton MCZ data (2016) – JNCC undertook a community analysis of grab and video data to establish biotopes present. The following European Nature Information System (EUNIS) biotopes were assigned after multivariate analysis of the 2012 survey data. The Marine Habitat Classification for Britain and Ireland (version 15.03, JNCC 2015) has been provided in brackets: EUNIS Level 5 biotopes:
    A5.451 Polychaete-rich deep Venus community in offshore mixed sediments (SS.SMX.OMx.PoVen)
    A5.445 Ophiothrix fragilis and/or Ophiocomina nigra brittlestar beds on sublittoral mixed sediment (SS.SMx.CMx.OphMx)
    A5.444 Flustra foliacea and Hydrallmania falcata on tide-swept circalittoral mixed sediment (SS.SMx.CMx.FluHyd).
  • Offshore Brighton rMCZ Post-survey Site Report (2015) – Report detailing the findings of a dedicated seabed survey at Offshore Brighton MCZ, providing evidence of the presence and extent of broad-scale habitats and habitat FOCI outlined in the original site assessment document.
  • Marine ALSF Regional Environmental Characterisation Surveys South Coast Synthesis  (Surveys conducted 2004, 2005) – The South Coast Synthesis Study combines the Eastern English Channel REC habitat map with the South Coast REC habitat map and synthesizes the gaps to create coverage across the English Channel. The study proposed some alternative habitat types that are not part of the EUNIS habitats classification system and JNCC translated these into the closest official EUNIS habitat types.
  • British Geological Survey Particle Size Analysis (PSA) Data Points – Particle size analysis of historical British Geological Survey data was collated and used to identify habitat type within the MCZ.


Additional relevant literature

References for further supporting scientific literature consulted during the identification of this site can be found in the (MCZ) annexes of our advice. Please be aware that although these sources contain information in relation to this MPA, they do not necessarily represent the views of JNCC.


Knowledge gaps

If you are aware of any additional data or relevant scientific papers for this site not listed in the relevant documentation, or the Offshore Brighton Site Summary Document listed in the Relevant Documentation section, or the annexes of the MCZ advice documents, please contact us.


Conservation Advice

Last updated: March 2018

Updated formal conservation advice is now available for this MPA.  Further information on the approach used to develop this advice is available on the '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. 

You must refer to this advice if you:

  • undertake an MCZ assessment for a plan or project that could impact the site;
  • provide information for such an assessment;
  •  respond to specific measures to further the conservation objectives for the site; and 
  • consider the need to put new or additional management measures in place.

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

  • carry out any other activity that could impact the site.

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.

The following table provides an overview of the components of the conservation advice and provides hyperlinks to each of the products for this MPA.  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  March 2018).  

Document Overview
Background Information

Explains the purpose of the advice and when it must be referred to.

Conservation Objectives


Supplementary Advice on the Conservation Objectives (SACO)

The Conservation Objectives set out the broad ecological aims for the site. JNCC provides supplementary advice in the SACO which is essential reading to support interpretation of these conservation objectives.

You can use these documents to assess the impacts of your planned activity on the important attributes of the site.

Conservation Advice Statements

Site condition presents our up-to-date understanding of the condition of feature (s) within the site;

Conservation benefits which the site can provide, these help you understand what is important about the site and why it needs protecting; and

Conservation measures which JNCC considers are needed to support the achievement of the conservation objectives. These provide clarity around measures needed to support restoration or maintenance of the feature(s) within the site.

Advice on Operations

Provides information on the activities capable of affecting site integrity and therefore achievement of the site’s conservation objectives.

This is a starting point for determining potential management requirements. It does not take into account the intensity, frequency or cumulative impacts from activities taking place.

It is simply to advise you of the possible adverse impacts that your activity can have on a MPA’s features.

Use the advice on operations to determine those pressures your activity causes that could harm the habitat and/or species features of the site.

These documents are available on JNCC's Resource Hub.


Activities and Management

Last updated: April 2017

Management status: Progressing towards being well managed.

The vulnerability assessment conducted for this site suggests it is unlikely to be moving towards its conservation objectives. Progress is ongoing, with fisheries management options being developed. Ongoing site condition monitoring work will be required in order to conclude with confidence as to the degree to which the site is moving towards or achieving its conservation objectives.

This site forms part of the UK's contribution to the OSPAR Commission’s network of MPAs. As the UK is a contracting party to the OSPAR Commission, JNCC is committed to ensuring that the OSPAR MPA network is well-managed.

JNCC considers well-managed to mean the timely progress of an MPA around the 'MPA management cycle'. This involves:

  1. The documentation of appropriate management information – conservation objectives, advice on activities capable of affecting the protected features of a site, and spatial information on the presence and extent of the protected features of a site.
  2. The implementation of management measures – management actions considered necessary to achieve the conservation objectives of a site.
  3. Site condition monitoring programmes – collecting the information necessary to determine progress towards a site's conservation objectives.
  4. Assessment of progress towards conservation objectives – using available information to infer whether or not a site is moving towards or has achieved its conservation objectives.

The sub-sections that follow provide an account of the progress of Offshore Brighton MCZ around each of these four stages in the MPA management cycle:


1. The documentation of appropriate management information

  • The MPA conservation advice packages including the conservation objectives and advice on activities capable of affecting the conservation status of the protected feature of this site are available in the Conservation Advice section.  Further information is available on our 'Conserving MPAs' webpage.
  • Spatial information on the presence and extent of the protected feature of this MPA is available via JNCC's MPA mapper.
  • JNCC is in the process of developing downloadable MPA data packages where appropriate permissions to share datasets are in place.


2. The implementation of management measures

This section details progress towards the implementation of management measures for activities considered capable of affecting the conservation status of the protected features of the site. The protected features of the site are considered to be sensitive to pressures associated with fishing, telecommunication cables and military activity.


  • There is evidence of mobile demersal, mobile pelagic and static gear effort within the MPA and UK and non-UK registered vessels have been active in the area.
  • The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) is the lead authority regarding the implementation of, and compliance with, any measures to managing fishing activity. Further information on progress is on the Marine Management Organisation's webpages.

Telecommunications cables

  • Two telecommunications cables currently cross through the MPA.
  • Cables are largely an unregulated activity in offshore waters depending upon the type of cable being laid (or maintained), where it is being laid between and whether the cable is part of a larger development (which may be regulated). Any cable not directly associated with an energy installation does not require a marine license beyond 12 nautical miles limit.
  • JNCC encourages early discussion from operators regarding any plans related to new or existing cables and encourages the undertaking of non-statutory environmental impact assessments for new or existing cable projects to assess their effect on the protected features of the MPA.

Military activity

  • Low-level military activity may take place within the MCZ. The Ministry of Defence (MOD) has incorporated all designated MPAs into their Environmental Protection Guidelines (Maritime) and wider Marine Environmental and Sustainability Assessment Tool. These guidelines are used to manage MoD activity to minimise the associated risks to the environment.


3. Site condition monitoring

Site condition monitoring surveys are yet to take place within this MPA. Further information will be made available in the Monitoring section in due course.


4. Assessment of progress towards conservation objectives

No long-term condition monitoring data is available to determine whether the MPA is moving towards or has reached its conservation objectives. The site’s protected features have 'recover' conservation objectives, based on a vulnerability assessment that examined exposure to activities associated with pressures to which the protected features of the site are considered sensitive. This suggests that the site is unlikely to be moving towards its conservation objectives but site condition monitoring data would improve our confidence in this assessment. 



Last updated: October 2017

JNCC is currently leading on the development of a strategy for biodiversity monitoring across all UK waters, to include MPA monitoring. 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 .

Information on monitoring of this MPA will be provided when it becomes available.



Published: .

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