Ballan wrasse (Credit Ian Pilling)
Colourful creatures abound on the chalk and sandstone reefs off Dover and Folkestone.
Lying between Dover and Folkestone is a surprising diversity of seabed structure which mirrors the geology on land.
Below the white cliffs is an important stretch of marine chalk reefs, interrupted by the Samphire Hoe platform which contains the spoil from the Channel Tunnel. Heading towards Folkestone both on the shore and out to sea, the chalk gives way to soft grey clay and then to the lower greensand that can be seen at Copt Point. Twin-shelled molluscs called piddocks live in the holes they bore in the soft chalk and clay here.
Harder rock is rare in the South-East, and the rugged outcropping ridges of Folkestone’s sandstone support many fragile branching sponges, alongside soft corals, fan worms and anemones. Crevices in the rock harbour crustaceans, fish, and even cuttlefish, while the edges are adorned with light-bulb sea squirts or bottlebrush bryozoans.
This diverse site is very important for the network. The consultation proposes 20 features for protection – the second highest number of features contained in a single site in this consultation. This includes 13 broad habitat types, one species (the native oyster), one geological feature and 5 habitat features of conservation importance.
Defra notes that this site contains one of the best examples in the region of intertidal chalk communities, and the best example of intertidal under-boulder communities – special animal life which thrives on the damp and shaded undersides of the chalk boulders on the shore. Defra’s consultation states that this site will fill a gap in the network for peat and clay exposures, and for moderate energy intertidal rock.
It is disappointing that the site boundary has been moved 500m away from Dover harbour wall, which means that the short-snouted seahorse (recorded in the now-excluded section of the recommended MCZ) will no longer be protected.
It is disappointing that 5 other features present in the site have been omitted from the list for protection, due to insufficient evidence.
This recommended Marine Conservation Zone is under consideration for the second tranche of MCZs
Natural England and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee have indicated that this site is at high risk of damage or degradation due to the presence of vulnerable habitats or species within the site.
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Dive video of this site
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