Explorers of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site will experience stunning panoramic sea views. Lucky sea watchers might glimpse a porpoise or dolphin here and there – a clue that much more lies hidden from view beneath the surface.

Welcome to the website all about the wildlife and people who use Dorset’s Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). Dorset is host to several MPAs, each supporting thriving undersea communities. Corals, sponges, seahorses, black bream, lobsters, rare algae and seagrass are just some of the species living in, on and above a vast array of seabed types like mud, sand, gravel and rocky reefs.

The spectacular scenery and nature mean Dorset’s seas are popular with people from all walks of life – fishermen, anglers, sailors, divers and marine biologists to name a few.

Explore the website to discover the abundant wildlife and natural communities found in Dorset’s seas. Learn about the small-boat fishers who have fished these sites for generations using low-impact methods and working with the seasonal changes across different sites.

Each page has sections detailing how each MPA is used and managed in hope of ensuring the brightest possible future for both people and the environment.


…what would be revealed if the tide went out, and just kept going.

The DORset Integrated Seabed (DORIS) survey allows us to see just that, in incredible detail. This followed painstakingly detailed work to map the seafloor around Dorset.

The DORIS map allows users to explore Dorset’s seabed and many of its hidden geological features. The following pages allow you to delve deeper into the seabed’s hidden gullies, ledges and sandbanks both inside and outside of Dorset’s MPAs.


As well as having benefits for wildlife and fisheries where they are well-managed, MPAs can benefit other sea users as well.

A report led by Aberdeen University examined the potential benefits of MPAs on the well-being of anglers and divers who use them.

It found that “…the most important benefits to divers and anglers [from MPAs] were engagement and interaction with nature (including feeling connected, getting to know nature, and appreciating its beauty), transformative values (including memorable experiences) and the sites’ social bonding value… …therapeutic, identity and spiritual values of nature were also important at sites across the UK.” The full report is available HERE.

Lyme Bay Home#2

Lyme Bay Reefs 

The Lyme Bay Reefs Marine Protected Area protects over 31,000 hectares of seabed between Dorset and East Devon.

Discover vast fields of seafan corals, abundant fish and thriving fisheries. Find out how the exemplary management of this MPA can be used as a model for others both in the UK and beyond.

Chesil & Stennis Home#2

Chesil Beach & Stennis Ledges 

With its 18 miles of golden shingle, Chesil Beach is an imposing landmark on the Dorset coast. This Marine Protected Area protects the seabed adjacent to the beach and the rocky reefs of Stennis Ledges opposite the Fleet.

Native oysters, abundant lobsters and pink seafan corals are just some of the diverse wildlife that live in the waters off Chesil Beach. Explore this page to discover more about the underwater life on the area’s wrecks and reefs and discover how fishermen fished and continue to fish from Chesil Beach today.

Fleet Home#2

The Fleet Lagoon

England’s largest lagoon, the Fleet reaches from Ferry Bridge to Abbotsbury, home of the famous Abbotsbury Swannery. Huge numbers of birds flock to its protected waters for shelter and to feed on and in the extensive seagrass beds throughout much of its length.

Home to many rare species, the Fleet is highly protected owing to many of its unique features. Careful management however allows visitors to enjoy the many wildlife spectacles the Fleet has to offer and enables several low-impact fisheries to operate.

Purbeck & SE Dorset Home#2

Purbeck & Southeast Dorset

Steeped in geological history and bountiful panoramic vistas the Purbeck Coast Marine Protected Area is of national and international importance.

Vast rocky reefs, rare rockpool habitats and maerl beds support a vast number of amazing plants and animals, all with their own stories to tell. Nesting building bream, ray ‘hotspots’, sponge covered undersea cliffs and new species all add to the rich tapestry of life off the Purbeck Coast.

People are drawn from miles around to enjoy the Purbeck Coast, use its waters for recreation or to fish commercially. All this activity requires careful management to ensure the seas remain healthy and productive for future generations.