In and on the water
With a total of about 18,700 km2, Balanced Seas has the smallest area of the four Regional MCZ Projects, but involves some of the busiest and most heavily used UK waters. In south-east England, everyone lives less than 70 miles from the coast.
Huge numbers of people spend their recreation on or in the waters of the Solent, the Thames Estuary or the Essex estuaries – sailing, windsurfing, angling and swimming. Others enjoy the sea breezes and panoramic views as they walk the chalky coastal cliffs of Sussex and Kent, or relax on the numerous beaches.
Many people also make their living from the marine environment – fishing, dredging marine aggregates, providing renewable energy, and servicing the tourist and leisure industries.
The seas in the Balanced Seas project area have immense economic and social value in terms of fishing, recreation, shipping and other key industries. At the same time, they are home for a rich diversity of wildlife – largely unseen and often unappreciated.
Sea caves, kelp forests, meadows of anemones and sponges, chalk reefs and other habitats support an array of species including pilot whales, mantis shrimp, sharks, thornback rays and commercially important sole, plaice, dab and other fish. In Thanet, Kent, caves extend up to 30 m into the cliffs and support a wide range of unique fauna and flora. Some of the country’s most notable underwater chalk reefs occur off the Isle of Wight and the Kent coast, supporting extensive kelp forests, sponge and fish species. Our coastal waters are also home to Europe’s largest population of native oyster together with species special to the south-east such as the Thames Blackwater herring.
These species and habitats need to be maintained as future declines could harm livelihoods and the economy of the region.