Natural England Conservation Advice for Marine Protected Areas
Poole Rocks MCZ

In May 2019, Black seabream (Spondyliosoma cantharus) was designated as an additional feature within Poole Rocks MCZ. Please note that the Conservation Advice for the Black seabream feature is draft advice only. For all other features, the Conservation Advice is formal statutory advice.

Natural England guidance

This site collection contains Natural England’s conservation advice for this site. It fulfils Natural England’s responsibility under the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009, to give advice on how to further the conservation objectives for the site, identify the activities that are capable of affecting the designated features and the processes which they are dependent upon.

Natural England's conservation advice for this site is made up of a number of components. You will need to consider: Additional information for consideration:

Site information

Site name: Poole Rocks MCZ
Designation type: MCZ
Site identification: UKMCZ0014
Latest designation date: 31 May 2019
Designated features
(click to see site specific description):

General information on the site features:
The general information on the designated features from the MCZ features catalogue is useful for understanding the designated features, and should be used in conjunction with the site specific information.
Designated area (ha): 400
Moderation/boundary changes: The site was designated on 12 December 2013. Black seabream (Spondyliosoma cantharus) was added as a protected feature on 31 May 2019.
Overlapping Protected Areas:

Last updated: 13th March 2020

Background information and geography

The site is entirely marine and subtidal covering an area of approximately 4km2. It is located to the east of the Poole Harbour entrance and approximately 2 to 2.5km east of Sandbanks beachfront.

Poole Rocks Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) is an area of rocky outcrops within the sediment dominated Poole Bay. While primarily comprised of sand and gravel, the site's rocky outcrops form patchy reefs allowing this site to support a variety of commercially important fish species and provide an important food source for seabirds.

The site is designated for the rock, sediments and three species; native oyster, Couch’s goby, and nesting black seabream.

Subtidal mixed sediment supports a wide range of animals such as burrowing worms and bivalves that live in the sediment, and star fish and sea urchins that live on the sediment surface.

The rocky habitats within the MCZ are rich in seaweeds and animals, such as sponges and sea mosses (bryozoans). They also provide an important habitat for inshore commercial fisheries species, such as common lobster and crab.

Couch’s goby, a very rare (only recorded in 4 locations around the UK) and secretive, small marine fish is present within the site, and Native oysters are found on the rocky habitats. This habitat also makes Poole Rocks MCZ an important site for nesting black seabream, which congregate each year to excavate their nests from rock covered in a thin layer of sediment and breed during the spring and summer months.

Site maps

Use the MAGIC website to see site maps, including habitats, species and other marine designations.

These maps are based on best available evidence, there are some caveats associated with the maps on MAGIC.

Conservation objectives

The site’s conservation objectives apply to the Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) and the individual species and/or habitat for which the site has been designated (the “Designated features” listed below).

There are two conservation objectives of the zone:

The first conservation objective of the zone is that the protected features:

  • Moderate energy circalittoral rock
  • Subtidal mixed sediments
  • Couch's goby (Gobius couchi)
  • Native oyster (Ostrea edulis)
  1. are maintained in favourable condition if they are already in favourable condition
  2. be brought into favourable condition if they are not already in favourable condition

For moderate energy circalittoral rock and subtidal mixed sediments, favourable condition means that, within the zone both:

  1. its extent is stable or increasing
  2. its structure and functions, its quality, and the composition of its characteristic biological communities (including diversity and abundance of species forming part of, or inhabiting the habitat) are sufficient to ensure that its condition remains healthy and does not deteriorate

Any temporary deterioration in condition is to be disregarded if the habitat is sufficiently healthy and resilient to enable its recovery.

For Couch's goby and native oyster, favourable condition means that the population within the zone is supported in numbers which enable it to thrive, by maintaining:

  1. the quality and quantity of its habitat
  2. the number, age and sex ratio of its population

Any temporary reduction of numbers is to be disregarded if the population is sufficiently thriving and resilient to enable its recovery.

The second conservation objective of the zone is that, in relation to black seabream:

  1. the habitat used by individuals of that species for the purposes of spawning (spawning habitat); (a) are maintained in favourable condition if they are already in favourable condition, or (b) be brought into favourable condition if they are not already in favourable condition.
  2. the population (whether temporary of otherwise) of that species occurring in the zone be free of disturbance likely to significantly affect the survival of its members or their ability to aggregate, nest, or lay, fertilise or guard eggs during breeding.

For the spawning habitat of black seabream within the zone, favourable condition means that the habitat is of sufficient quality and quantity to enable individuals of this species using the habitat to survive, aggregate, nest, lay, fertilise or guard eggs during breeding.

Any alteration to a feature brought about entirely by natural processes is to be disregarded when determining whether a protected feature is in favourable condition.

This should be read in conjunction with the accompanying supplementary advice section, which provides more detailed information to help achieve the objectives set out above, including which attributes should be maintained and which recovered.

Designated features:

  • Moderate energy circalittoral rock
  • Subtidal mixed sediments
  • Couch’s goby (Gobius couchi)
  • Native oyster (Ostrea edulis)
  • Black seabream (Spondyliosoma cantharus)

Supplementary Advice on Conservation Objectives

See supplementary advice on conservation objectives for this site, which aim to describe the range of ecological attributes that are most likely to contribute to a site’s overall integrity.

Last updated: 13th March 2020

Advice on Operations

See the advice on operations for this site to view information on the sensitivity of features in this site to the pressures exerted by different activities.

Last updated: 13th March 2020

Advice on Seasonality

See the advice on seasonality for this site, to view the months in which each mobile feature occurs in this site.

Last updated: 13th March 2020

Feature Condition

In 2016, Natural England trialled and rolled out a new Marine Protected Area (MPA) condition assessment methodology that provides robust results and information on the condition of marine features designated within MPAs in England. With guidance from National teams and using all available evidence and condition monitoring data, Area Teams conduct these assessments following a standardised approach that assesses if the feature and sub feature conservation targets set for each MPA have been met.

To date, condition assessments have been completed for a number of features in a range of marine Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) by the National and Area Teams. Further marine habitat features in SACs and other MPAs will continue to be assessed in the future. The new method can now also be applied to complete habitat and species condition assessments for other MPAs in England, whilst still meeting the different processes in place to report on the results of condition of features in Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs). Different processes are currently in place to decide and report on the condition of non-marine habitat and species features of SACs.

The main part of the assessment process is directly undertaken and stored here on Natural England’s Designated Sites View. The details for the most recent assessments of this site can be found here.

Management measures

If you are carrying out an environmental assessment, planning an operation or assessing an operation or proposal, it is important to consult with the following organisations where applicable. To find out if any management measures, byelaws or other restrictions apply to your activity see the management measure page or you can use the following links for more information.

The Marine Management Organisation license, regulate and plan marine activities in the seas around England and Wales so that they’re carried out in a sustainable way.
Environment Agency are responsible for regulating major industry and waste, water quality and resources, fisheries, inland river, estuary and harbour navigations, conservation and ecology.
Offshore Petroleum Regulator for the Environment and Decommissioning (OPRED) regulates oil and gas, CCS and gas storage activities in the marine environment.

Further information

For further information relating to this designated site you can refer to the following resources:
Site specific information: Other information:
For further information about this site contact: Natural England enquiries Telephone: 0300 060 3900. Email: