List of YWT Nature Reserves (A-Z)


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Support Yorkshire's recommended Marine Conservation Zones

Marine Conservation Zones are a type of protected area at sea where human activity is restricted to protect wildlife and habitats

Take action to protect our seas today!

The Government is creating Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) a new type of Marine Protected Area (MPA) in the seas around England, following the passing of the Marine & Coastal Access Act (2009). These ‘zones’ will allow sustainable use of the sea whilst protecting a range of species and habitats found in English waters from damaging activity.

How you can help

There is still a long way to go before we have an ecologically coherent network of marine protected areas so please continue to support our campaign by becoming a Friend of Marine Conservation Zones.

Compass Rose 'recommended' Marine Conservation Zone

Compass Rose is located 30km off the Yorkshire coast and is approximately 50 metres deep throughout the area. The seafloor consists of sand, coarse sediment and rock and is home to several species of crustacean.

Located within the site are approximately 6.5km2 of hard rocky ground known as ‘Heartbreak Ridge’. Compass Rose provides spawning and nursery grounds for fish including plaice, herring, lemon sole, sandeel and sprat. During the summer months the area captures the most northerly section of the Flamborough Front, an upwelling of nutrients where the cooler northern and warmer southern waters of the North Sea mix, providing an important food source for marine mammals.

Castle Ground 'recommended' Marine Conservation Zone

At 14.5km in length stretching from Scalby, north of Scarborough to Filey Brigg, this area is characterised by intertidal rock and sediment habitats. Benthic life here is extremely rich, with over 225 creatures belonging to 10 different families recorded on Filey Brigg itself. This area provides a window into the world beneath the waves: home to seaweeds, sea hares, crabs and molluscs such as blue-rayed limpets. Dotted underneath rocks are anemones and sponges, alongside common starfish and brittlestars.

During the winter Filey Brigg supports 50% of the English purple sandpiper population, and, due to its close location to the Flamborough Headland, is important for foraging seabirds, such as kittiwakes.

Silver Pit 'recommended' Marine Conservation Zone

This newly combined site includes both the Holderness Offshore and Silver Pit recommended Marine Conservation Zones.

The seafloor here is a mosaic of mixed and coarse sediment habitats and is significant for crustaceans, including edible crabs and common lobsters. MCZ
designation would greatly benefit the local crab and lobster pot fishery.

Designation would also give protection to the Inner Pit glacial tunnel. This deep canyon has sloping walls covered in a living turf of brittlestars. Lemon and Dover sole, sprat, whiting, cod, plaice and herring all spawn here attracting feeding harbour porpoises and minke whales.

Markham's Triangle 'recommended' Marine Conservation Zone

Located 137km offshore from the Yorkshire coast, the seafloor ranges from 30-50 metres in depth making it a relatively shallow area. The seafloor consists of both coarse sediment and sand, interspersed with small patches of rock and gravels. This supports many creatures that burrow within or camouflage against the sediment, such as polychaete worms and bivalve molluscs. The sandeels here form a key food source for grey and harbour seals as well as harbour porpoises, regularly spotted passing through the area.

Markham’s Triangle lies adjacent to the Dutch Cleaverbank Special Area of Conservation. Through designation of this site a corridor will be created between Marine Protected Areas benefitting marine life in UK waters and beyond!

Designated in 2016 - Runswick Bay Marine Conservation Zone

Runswick Bay, located north-west of Whitby, boasts a highly productive seabed. The MCZ is recommended for 7 out of the 12 different seafloor habitats found here, including rock, sediment and gravel.

Shallow rocky areas here are dominated by kelps and red seaweeds whereas deeper areas are encrusted in a living faunal turf of sponges, sea squirts, sea urchins and starfish. Interspersed with sand and gravel, this area is also important for burrowing creatures such as worms.

Runswick Bay provides spawning and nursery grounds for many fish, including herring, sprat, cod, whiting and plaice. Harbour porpoises are regularly recorded here alongside foraging seabirds, such as kittiwakes.

Designated in 2016 - Holderness Inshore Marine Conservation Zone

Running from Skipsea to Spurn Point, the seafloor here boasts a wealth of diversity, including habitats of cobbles, mixed sediment, sand and chalk, alongside patches of peat and clay. This mosaic supports a dense coverage of hydroid and bryozoan turf, sponges and ross worm reef as well as many fish, including tope and smoothhound. Over 8 different types of crabs have been seen at Holderness Inshore as well as the purple bloody henry starfish and common sunstars. Harbour porpoises and minke whales are often spotted from the shore passing through this area.

Holderness Inshore is also important for foraging seabirds as well as migrants.

Images: Common lobster, purple bloody henry starfish and mussel bed - George Stoyle, sand eels - Mark Thomas, blue-rayed limpets - Jess Charlton, harbour porpoise - Niki Clear.


The Yorkshire Wildlife Trust are one of the 12 Trusts involved in the North Sea project.

By working with 12 other Wildlife Trusts, our combined efforts and unified approach will improve our capacity and effort to protect the North Sea and its abundance of marine wildlife.

The North Sea covers an area of approximately 290,000 square miles, so it is no small task to ensure that the right species and habitats are protected. Learn more about this project and the North Sea here.