Poole Rocks Marine Conservation Zone

Life on the rocks, under the waves

Just one mile off the beach in Poole Bay, in just 6-12m of water, lies a wealth of marine life rich in colour and form, making its home among a number of rocky reefs


The Dorset Integrated Seabed survey (DorIS) mapped the Dorset seabed using sonar technology. This gave accurate information about the local seabed features.

On the map you can explore the rocky reefs within the yellow MCZ boundary and take a look at other incredible undersea formations around the Dorset coast. If using a touch screen, use two fingers to zoom and scroll.

Poole Rocks MCZ and DorIS seabed imagery

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Poole Rocks MCZ and DorIS seabed imagery: 50.687540, -1.883812
Pyrite formations
Pyrite formations

The reefs in the conservation zone contain some remarkable geology. Despite looking like part of a shipwreck, these images show pyrite formations jutting upward from the seabed. Pyrite is a mineral rich in iron-sulphide and also known as ‘fool’s gold’. Valuable in a different sense, pyrite has been used for ‘flints’ in early firearms and in solar panels in the present day.

Some ancient creatures became fossilised in pyrite which can give them the look of being made from pure gold.

Designated features

The MCZ has a number of specific features which are legally protected against damaging activities. In addition to the rocky reefs, these include the mixed sediments surrounding the reefs and two rare species. 

Rocky reefs
Couch's goby
Mixed sediments
Native oyster

These are not the only species that make Poole Rocks MCZ a special place. Many other species add to the colour and diversity under the surface of Poole Bay…


Some of the fish within Poole Rocks MCZ are resident year-round whilst others come and go with the seasons.  

Here we feature a selection of the familiar and more bizarre reef residents.

At night, conger eels hunt for fish, crabs and lobsters around Poole Rocks. A diver finding pieces of crab or lobster on the seabed can guess a conger is somewhere nearby.

It’s a mystery…

…no-one really knows where congers go to breed. It might be in deep waters around the UK or perhaps they cross the Atlantic to the Sargasso Sea.

Hiding in its lair on a summer's evening in Poole Bay

Click the button below the images to reveal more weird and wonderful fish of Poole Rocks MCZ…

One of the most special fish in the MCZ is the black bream.

Each spring thousands of these fish arrive in Poole Bay transforming the seabed over hundreds of square metres. Males build large nests, some over 6ft across in which the females spawn their eggs.

Male bream then guard the eggs for several weeks until they hatch, keeping them clean and safe from predators.

This video shows a male bream defending its nest against a persistent goldsinny wrasse and then another nest where the male is absent.

The number of fish predating the unguarded eggs is approximately 40 and includes black gobies, goldsinny wrasse, pouting and even a cheeky juvenile black bream!


As well as fish, the MCZ is home to a host of colourful invertebrates from sea slugs and cuttlefish to crabs and crustaceans.

Seabed life

The rocks and sediments in the MCZ are festooned with a living turf of animals and plants full of colour and complexity.  

The images below exhibit just a small selection of those present.

We hope you have enjoyed discovering the life under the waves of Poole Rocks Marine Conservation Zone

This webpage has only just touched on the huge diversity of marine life within Poole Bay.

In time we hope to add more images and video to the page and continue to showcase the amazing underwater world on our doorstep.

Find Out More

The project partners are all committed to conserving the MCZ and ensuring that the various life on the rocks and surrounding seabed thrives in perpetuity.

Click the logos below for more information on how to show your support and get involved.