This is a static version of the conservation advice for this site, generated on 22/09/2019.
Please check the latest advice for this site at
Natural England Conservation Advice for Marine Protected Areas
The Manacles MCZ

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: The Manacles MCZ
Designation type: MCZ
Site identification: UKMCZ0018
Latest designation date: 29 January 2016
Designated features
(click to see site specific description):

Intertidal coarse sediment

The largest area of intertidal coarse sediment extends from Leggan Point down the coastline to Shag Rock, occupying most of the intertidal zone. Smaller patches of this feature are situated to the south of the jetty and on the upper shore at Leggan Cove, where most of the intertidal area consists of coarse sand.

Maerl beds

The Manacles is one of only two marine protected areas in the southwest that include maerl beds as a feature, the other being the Fal and Helford SAC where maerl is a designated sub-feature of the Annex I habitat Sandbanks slightly covered by seawater at all times.

Maerl beds have been recorded at various locations within the site.

Moderate energy circalittoral rock

Moderate energy circalittoral rock in The Manacles MCZ supports a number of notable species, including one of the best examples of pink sea fan Eunicella verrucosa communities and the sea-fan anemone Amphianthus dohrnii in the region (Wood and Solandt, 2005). The Devonshire cup coral Caryophyllia smithii has also been recorded on circalittoral rock here. This solitary hard coral is listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

Moderate energy circalittoral rock is found in various areas within The Manacles MCZ. The largest area of the feature is found towards the southern boundary of the MCZ, around Carn-du Rocks. Smaller patches of the feature are found centrally on the northern boundary of the site.

In general, wherever the sea bed is flattish and rocky below 20m water depth over an extensive area there are dense populations of pink sea-fans in The Manacles MCZ site (Wood, 2008). Some areas of moderate energy circalittoral rock also have an abundance of dead man’s fingers (Alcyonium digitatum), plumose anemones (Metridium senile) and jewel anemones (Corynactis viridis) (MESL, 2013). Other associated fauna include dense faunal turfs of hydroids and bryozoans (such as Cellaria spp.) (MESL, 2013). The axinellid branching sponge Raspailia ramose and the sponge Cliona celata can also be found here, along with the cotton-spinner sea cucumber (Holothuria forskali), the potato crisp bryozoan (Pentapora fascialis) and various fish species.

Moderate energy infralittoral rock

Moderate energy infralittoral rock predominately occurs in one area of The Manacles MCZ, extending from the centre of the site towards the southern boundary, covering 19.7ha (MESL, 2013). Isolated patches can also be found within the site. Moderate energy infralittoral rock is largely characterised by boulders, rock and coarse sediment within The Manacles MCZ and supports important kelp (Laminaria spp.) communities (MESL, 2013).

A range of species commonly found on moderate energy infralittoral rock have been recorded on the feature within The Manacles MCZ, including kelps (Laminaria spp.), red seaweeds, the common sea urchin Echinus esculentus, starfish, dead man’s fingers Alcyonium digitatum and the potato crisp bryozoan Pentapora fascialis (MESL, 2013). A diverse sponge community has also been recorded here, including Cliona celata, Polymastia boletiformis and the yellow branching sponge Axinella dissimilis. The cup sponge Axinella infundibuliformis, which is rarely seen in the south of England, has also been recorded at a site near the Carn-du rocks (Wood and Solandt, 2005).

Moderate energy intertidal rock

The intertidal rocky habitat within the site extends approximately 100 metres offshore and is largely a mosaic of moderate energy and high energy intertidal rock. There is a large area of intertidal rock containing moderate energy habitats stretching from the northern boundary of the MCZ down to Leggan Cove, with another small section at Leggan Point. Intertidal rock containing moderate energy habitats also extends from Dean Point, south to the jetty (Ecospan Environmental Ltd., 2013).

Invertebrates commonly found on moderate energy intertidal rock such as barnacles, limpets, the strawberry anemone, the dog whelk and topshells can be found here as well as the rare stalked jellyfish Haliclystus sp. Brown algae, especially fucoids, red algae such as pepper dulse (Osmundea pinnatifida), and green algae including Ulva spp. Have also been recorded (Ecospan Environmental Ltd., 2013).

Pink sea-fan (Eunicella verrucosa)

Dense populations of pink sea-fans (Eunicella verrucosa) have been observed in The Manacles MCZ (Defra, 2012). Across the site as a whole there have been over 130 individual records of pink sea-fans since 1994 from video survey samples and also Seasearch dives (Wood, 2003), (Wood and Solandt, 2005), (APEM, 2014), (Defra, 2012), (MESL, 2013), (Environment Agency, 2012). The highest densities of pink sea-fan have been recorded in the offshore area of the site, between Dean Point and Manacles Point, associated with The Manacles MCZ circalittoral reef features and subtidal coarse sediment between reef features (MESL, 2013).

Sea-fan anemone (Amphianthus dohrnii)

The sea-fan anemone has been recorded on a number of pink sea-fans within The Manacles MCZ, including on 26 in a survey conducted by Wood in 2005, when up to 11 anemones were found per sea-fan (Wood, 2003), (Wood and Solandt, 2005). Previous studies have shown that The Manacles supports some of the largest numbers of Amphianthus dohrnii, making it one of the only sites where the number of anemones would make a study of population dynamics a viable possibility (Wood, 2003).

Surveys in 2003 recorded a good range of sizes in the population of pink sea-fan (Eunicella verrucosa) at The Manacles, indicating a healthy population for both the pink sea-fan and sea-fan anemone (Wood, 2003). Sea-fan anemones have been recorded at various locations within The Manacles MCZ.

Spiny lobster (Palinurus elephas)

The spiny lobster has been recorded in two areas within The Manacles MCZ. Recordings of the increasingly rare species have been made towards the southern boundary area of the MCZ near Maen Land (inside the MCZ) and Mason’s Mount (on the MCZ boundary). Recorded sightings of the spiny lobster were also made during the 2005 and 2006 MCS Seasearch surveys. In Cornwall, the spiny lobster is also protected in the Padstow Bay and Surrounds MCZ and the Isles of Scilly MCZs.

Stalked jellyfish (Haliclystus spp)

The stalked jellyfish Haliclystus auricular has been recorded at Godrevy Cove, about half way along the landward boundary of the site.

Subtidal coarse sediment

Subtidal coarse sediment within The Manacles MCZ has been recorded between rock and boulder habitats within the site, such as offshore from Manacles Point to the north east of Godrevy Cove and at the eastern boundary of the MCZ (MESL, 2013), (APEM, 2014).

Maerl was also observed in some survey stations that recorded subtidal coarse sediment, although in very low abundance it represented the domnant biology in some stations (MESL, 2013). Pink sea-fan Eunicella verrucosa also occur, associated with areas of bedrock, boulders and cobbles present within the subtidal mixed sediment in the region (Wood and Solandt, 2005), (Seasearch, 2011).

Subtidal macrophyte-dominated sediment

Subtidal macrophyte dominated sediment is characterised by accumulations of maerl in this site. Maerl habitats are a Biodiversity Action Plan priority habitat and are on the OSPAR List of Threatened and/or Declining Species and Habitats for the Celtic Sea.

Subtidal macrophyte dominated sediment has been recorded at various locations throughout the site. The maerl can be found with sandy gravel and muddy sand in places, and burrowing animals can also be found within the maerl (MESL, 2013).

Subtidal mixed sediments

Subtidal mixed sediment communities within The Manacles MCZ typically occur between rock and boulder habitats and between depths of 21m and 37m (MESL, 2013). Pink sea-fan Eunicella verrucosa also occur, associated with areas of bedrock, boulders and cobbles present within the subtidal mixed sediment in the region (Wood and Solandt, 2005).

The communities reported by surveys of the site, associated with subtidal mixed sediment, are characterised by macrophytes, starfish, urchins such as Echinus esculentus and sponges (MESL, 2013).

Subtidal sand

Subtidal sand has been recorded within The Manacles MCZ in water depths of less than 23m, although it may extend beyond this depth.

On the sandy surface in some places, lugworm (Arenicola marina) casts and burrows have been observed, as have horseshoe worms and mobile predators including crabs and starfish (MESL, 2013).

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): 350
Moderation/boundary changes: The site was designated on 12 December 2013. Pink sea-fan (Eunicella verrucosa), Subtidal coarse sediment and Subtidal mixed sediments were added as a protected features on 29 January 2016.
Component Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI):
Overlapping Protected Areas:

Last updated: 13th September 2019

Background information and geography

The Manacles MCZ is an inshore site located on the east coast of the Lizard Peninsula, in south-west Cornwall. The Manacles is a relatively small MCZ, extending just 2 km from the coastline and running from Polcries northwards to Porthoustock Point along the landward boundary.

The intertidal area in The Manacles MCZ is dominated by moderate energy intertidal rock and intertidal coarse sediment, encompassing rocky points and sandy coves.

As well as the many shipwrecks found under the waves at the site, there lies a series of large underwater rocky outcrops of moderate energy infralittoral rock and moderate energy circalittoral rock, extending to depths of 14 to 57 meters. This underwater landscape provides for a huge variety of rich rocky reef communities. The diverse seafloor landscape also includes maerl beds and sedimentary habitats such as subtidal sand, subtidal coarse sediment and subtidal mixed sediment.

The high quality reefs at The Manacles are a principal reason underpinning the site’s recommendation as a MCZ. Dense populations of the pink sea-fan (Eunicella verrucosa) occur throughout the deeper waters of the MCZ, some of which support the sea-fan anemone (Amphianthus dohrnii). The Manacles MCZ creates and supports a habitat ideal for mobile species such as the spiny lobster (Palinurus elephas), found amongst the bedrock and boulders of the rocky reef system. The stalked jellyfish (Haliclystus auricula) has also been recorded in the site.

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 and the individual species and/or habitat for which the site has been designated (the “Designated Features” listed below).

The conservation objective of the zone is that the protected habitats:

1. are maintained in favourable condition if they are already in favourable condition

2. be brought back to favourable condition if they are not already in favourable condition

For each protected feature, favourable condition means that, within a zone:

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 each species of marine fauna, favourable condition means that the population within a 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 in numbers of a species is to be disregarded if the population is sufficiently thriving and resilient to enable its recovery.

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:

  • Intertidal coarse sediment
  • Maerl beds
  • Moderate energy circalittoral rock
  • Moderate energy infralittoral rock
  • Moderate energy intertidal rock
  • Pink sea-fan (Eunicella verrucosa)
  • Sea-fan anemone (Amphianthus dohrnii)
  • Spiny lobster (Palinurus elephas)
  • Stalked jellyfish (Haliclystus auricula)
  • Subtidal coarse sediment
  • Subtidal macrophyte-dominated sediment
  • Subtidal mixed sediments
  • Subtidal sand

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: 15th September 2017

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 September 2019

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: 20th March 2017

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: