Marine Conservation

Brighton Offshore MCZ


In January 2016 the area  located in the eastern English Channel, approximately 45km south of Selsey Bill, West Sussex has been designated the Brighton Offshore Marine Conservation Zone


The area covering some 862sqKm stretches from Brighton to the West and the southerly edges touch onto the median line with French Waters.The actual position is the area bounded by the following coordinates:

  • 50 22.916N 0 17.895W (North East)
  • 50 13.162N 0 15.583W (South East)
  • 50 08.172N 0 52.990W (South West)
  • 50 19.239N 0 54.20W (North West)


The seabed in the Brighton Offshore MCZ is predominantly coarse sands, gravel and shingle with areas of exposed bedrock and mixed sediments. There is a diverse range of species found living within the sediments. Hydroids, bryozoans and sponges occupy the boulders and cobbles, where hermit crabs and starfish also thrive. Burying animals such as worms, sea anemones, burrowing anemones, carpet shell clams, venus cockles and other bivalves live within the mixed sediments


The purpose of the MCZ is to protect features of this habitat. Activities will continue in this area that maintain the current situation, but will be reviewed if a deteriation is recorded. Activities that harm the environment will be limited to allow the location to recover. Benthic trawling will almost certainly be restricted.

More Information

Defra – Brighton Offshore MCZ

Joint Nature Conservation Committee

JNCC/Defra Brighton Offshore Assessment Document

Tagged Black Bream

The Sussex Inshore Fisheries & Conservation Authority (IFCA) has released tagged black bream into the Sussex Coastal Waters. The area of the release is Kingmere Rocks, the newly designated Marine Conservation Zone.

The purpose of taggingthe fish is to gain an understanding of the movement and behaviour of black bream. This information will be used to improve the management of the conservation zone.

The project relies on the information returned for the tagged black bream. The involvement of fishermen to report any tagged fish they may catchis paramount. As an incentive IFCA are running a prize draw to those returning information.

The plastic identification tags are attached next to the dorsal fin (the large fin at the top) and are about 75mm long. They come in three colours: flourescent green, red or blue.  Each tag has a reference number on it, which is used to identify the particular fish. The Green tags are particularly important as the fish has an acoustic tracking device fitted.

It is very important to return all fish unharmed if they are caught. You can download the original document from IFCA which gives further details on what to do if you find a tagged black bream

Sea Bream Nests

Black Sea Bream Nest

The Black Sea Bream (spondyliosoma cantharus) is a fairly common fish off Sussex coast particularly in the months of April and May when they come into lay their eggs. Sea bream are unusual in that they lay their eggs in a nest. The bream nest is a depression in the sand which the male excavates. The eggs are sticky and remain in the bottom of the bream nest. The male guards the nest until the young hatch.

Several trips to Kingmere Rocks have been made to photograph the bream nest with a fish in it. These have been unsuccessful. Bream are very rarely seen by divers. Kingmere Rocks have recently been designated one of the Marine Conservation Zones as it is a bream nest site. However, controls have not yet been put in place to protect the species during the breeding season. Consequently the fish in the nests are targeted and large numbers are being taken by anglers and commercial fisherman, who, with the technology available today, are able to target the breeding grounds successfully.

As a commercial skipper I cannot dive unless I have another skipper on-board. I have just taken the opportunity to dive a small area near to Brighton where Bream are often caught in significant numbers and was very likely to be a bream nest site.

The site consists of many hollowed out areas which I assume to be made by the bream. The depressions are very localised. Drifting off just 50m and they all disappear. There are no silt in the depressions, so they are recent and probably well tended. Unfortunately I did not see any bream or eggs in the nests.

Bream Nest

Bream Nest

Some of these depressions are up to 2m across and  have been cleaned out completely right down to the rock below. The picture below shows how free the nest is of silt. Even fossils can be seen in the rock below.

Bottom of Bream Nest

Bottom of Bream Nest

The stone and sand from in the bream best area has been banked up around the area to quite a significant depth of almost 300mm.

Side of Bream Nest

Side of Bream Nest

Bream Nest looking out at banked up stone

Bream Nest looking out at banked up stone

Other Marine Life

The area is a low energy site. I saw 1 Ballan wrasse (Labrus bergylta) and a few cuckoo wrass (Labrus Mixtus). Along with a few gobies e.g. Common goby (pomatoschistus microps) and a larger variety I did not recognise. A few swimming crabs (Liocarcinus Puber) were present and a few shells of edible crabs. The Common starfish (Asterias Rubens), but very few molluscs. I saw two Dead men’s fingers (Alcyonium digitatum) and a few orange sponges.

SeaSearch 2013

Extract from SeaSearch Report

Extract from SeaSearch Report

Defiance has been thanked for in the SeaSearch report for 2013. In 2013 Defiance Charters continued to be a big supporter of the SeaSearch project. Defiance is pictured above on a survey of the Kingmere Rocks and the nesting sites for Black Sea Bream. A full copy of the report can be found here NEWSLETTER2013EDIT1

In 2014 Defiance hopes to work again with SeaSearch. Plans include running Observer Courses at Brighton Marina with Defiance giving the opportunity to do the practical diving.

The South West Rocks Survey mentioned in the Seasearch report with conjunction with Brighton Marina Divers is hoped to be expanded and improved in the coming year. Paul Jackman the skipper of Defiance inserted the reference tags in the rocks for the regular surveys.

Lastly the gathering of more data for the Beachy Head West marine conservation zone is planned. Seasearch is fundamental source of biodiversity data contributing to the approval of these zones.

Plaice – Pleuronectes Platessa

Plaice (Pleuronectes platessa)

Plaice (Pleuronectes platessa)


Plaice is a typical right eyed flatfish. The upper side is basically brown or dark green with conspicuous orange spots, whilst the underside is white. Another distinctive feature is a line of bony knobs that run between the eyes and the gill openings.


Plaice are common all-around Britain. They live mainly in the 10-50m depth range, on sandy or muddy bottoms, where they will bury themselves into the sediment for long periods.


The main spawning grounds extend from the eastern end of the English Channel, around the Thames Estuary and up into the North Sea. Plaice spawn in January to March  laying their eggs in fairly shallow water. The float near the surface and hatch in 2-3 weeks. After 4-6weeks the larval fish change to flatfish and settle on the seabed when they are about 10-17mm long. The female fish reach maturity between 3-7yrs in age, whilst the males develop slightly younger.


Plaice can live up to 50 years old and can reach over a metre in length. But a large adult of 50-60cm and about 30yrs is more likely due to the fishing activity of trawlers.


Plaice live on bottom dwelling animals like shellfish such as cockles. Younger fish will eat mainly shrimp.



Seal in Marina

I have seen the seal in Brighton Marina a couple of times. Firstly in the outer harbour where it was happily catching and eating fish. However, I was a bit surprised to find him so close to my boat when preparing for a trip.

Seal in Brighton Marina

Seal in Brighton Marina

The photo above was taken by my boat in the harbour. The seal swam up to about a metre from me. He is very inquisitive and after seeing what was going on continued to swim about very close to the boat.