Natural England Conservation Advice for Marine Protected Areas
Coquet to St Mary's 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: Coquet to St Mary's MCZ
Designation type: MCZ
Site identification: UKMCZ0030
Latest designation date: 29 January 2016
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): 19188.25
Component Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI):
Overlapping Protected Areas:

Last updated: 13th September 2019

Background information and geography

Coquet to St Mary’s Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) is an inshore site that runs along the southern half of the Northumberland Coast, within the northern North Sea in the north-east of England. The site covers approximately 19188.25 ha of intertidal and subtidal habitats, stretching from Alnmouth in the north to Whitley Bay to the south, and from mean high water out to approximately 7.5km at its seaward-most extent. Coquet to St Mary’s MCZ contains a mosaic of sediment and hard substrate benthic habitats, which in turn support a wide range of diverse communities.

The intertidal habitats range from rocky shore platforms and outcrops, to large sandy bays and beaches, each supporting unique communities. Rocky shores support large abundances of red algae, fucoids and kelp, whilst intertidal boulders provides shelter and habitat for a wide variety of crustaceans, molluscs, anemones and encrusting bryozoans. Elsewhere mud and sand flats contain burrowing bivalves and worm communities, whilst amphipods dominate the strandline of sandy beaches. Rare exposures of intertidal peat and clay are found along patches of the coastline, including fossilised tree roots from thousands of years ago.

Shallow sloping infralittoral rock platforms also support thriving communities of macroalgae, which in turn support species including hydroids, sponges and anemones. The infralittoral rocky seabed gives way to circalittoral rock, where light penetration is too low to support diverse faunal communities, but instead a large diversity of benthic fauna flourish, including dead man’s fingers, hornwrack and sponges. Circalittoral rocky habitats are interspersed between wide areas of subtidal mud, sand and mixed sediments, each of which support their own range of species, including burrowing bivalves, bristle worms, sea pens and urchins. Sandwaves and ripples are formed by underwater currents shaping sediments on the seafloor.

The northern edge of the MCZ abuts with the Berwickshire and North Northumberland Coast SAC, and much of the northern section of the site overlaps with the Northumberland Marine SPA. The site surrounds, but does not include, Coquet Island SPA and St Mary’s Island Local Nature Reserve.

These sites are important for other species too, including marine mammals and seabirds. Grey seals make extensive use of St Mary’s Island to the south of the MCZ, whilst the area is also important for white-beaked dolphins and minke whales. The site surrounds Coquet Island SPA, which supports internationally important numbers of terns, including the largest breeding colony of roseate terns in England. These species make extensive use of the MCZ for foraging and other activities.

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 each of the zones is that the protected habitats:

  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 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 or inhabiting the habitat) are sufficient to ensure that its condition remains healthy and does not deteriorate.

Any temporary reduction of 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 advice and information to help achieve the objectives set out above.

Designated features:

  • High energy intertidal rock
  • Moderate energy intertidal rock
  • Low energy intertidal rock
  • Intertidal coarse sediment
  • Intertidal sand and muddy sand
  • Intertidal mud
  • Intertidal mixed sediments
  • High energy infralittoral rock
  • Moderate energy infralittoral rock
  • Moderate energy circalittoral rock
  • Subtidal coarse sediment
  • Subtidal sand
  • Subtidal mud
  • Subtidal mixed sediments
  • Intertidal under boulder communities
  • Peat and clay exposures

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

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: