Chalk reef (Credit Rob Spray)
Three metre high arches of chalk tower up above the seabed, providing a home for attached sponges and red seaweeds, whilst shoaling horse mackerel fly through the water like silvery darts.
Located just 200 metres from the Norfolk Coast is the start of an exciting stretch of chalk reef, ranging from 0 – 20 metres in depth.
Located just 200 metres from the Norfolk coast is the start of an exciting stretch of chalk reef, ranging from 0 – 20 metres in depth. This unique reef comprises boulders, stacks and arches and is most likely to be Europe’s largest chalk reef. Alongside chalk, the seabed is composed of a mixture of rock, sediment, peat and clay.
Marine life is abundant here, including blue mussel beds, over 30 species of sea slug, harbour porpoises, grey and harbour seals, alongside occasional sightings of sunfish and basking sharks.
The chalk habitat here hosts large communities of crustaceans, burrowing piddocks, sea squirts, anemones and sponges; the purple sponge found here is a species new to science and was only discovered in 2011 by Dr Claire Goodwin. Shoaling fish are also a common sight and provide food for many seabirds, including common, little and Sandwich tern.
The area was proposed for a number of features including its chalk reefs, thought to be the largest in Europe, which are encrusted by soft corals, anemones, sponges, starfish and brittlestars. These reefs also provide habitat and nursery areas for commercially important species such as lobsters, crabs, pouting and plaice. Hence, the area supports small-scale crab and lobster fisheries vital to the character and economy of the area. Impact assessments reveal that designating the area as an MCZ would have little or no economic cost to fishermen, oil, gas and wind farm operators.
This recommended Marine Conservation Zone is under consideration for the second tranche of MCZs
Billed as the UK's great reef, Defra have indicated that this site is in the tranche 2 consultation. The full extent of this reef was only found in 2010 when divers mapped its 20-mile length. This makes it the longest in Europe, and possibly the world.
The site is also important for fish spawning and provides a good foraging area for seabirds.
We need you to help ensure that this site is designated. Become a Friend of this site to stay up-to-date with The Wildlife Trusts' campaign to see how you can help.
Contains UKHO Law of the Sea data. Crown copyright and database right and contains Ordnance Survey Data Crown copyright and database 2012
Other nearby MCZs