The Sussex coast near our base in Shoreham offers some pretty great sites for marine life. We’re lucky enough to have two Marine Conservation Zones located within easy boat range of us, the Beachy Head West MCZ and the Kingmere MCZ, as well as the slightly further afield Beachy Head East, Selsey Bill and the Hounds, and East Meridian recommended MCZs. Our Club includes several active Seasearch Observers/Surveyors who carry out marine life surveys either on Seasearch organised trips in Sussex, Hampshire or further afield, or as part of our normal dives.
The Kingmere MCZ, including Worthing Lumps and Kingmere Rocks, is a complex mosaic of rocky habitats of sandstone outcrops and chalk reef systems that supports a wide diversity of marine life, such as sea squirts, sponges and algae. The area is also one of the most important spawning sites in the UK for black seabream. The males build and guard nests for the eggs, and at the right time of year these can be seen dotting the seabed.
Our favourite dives sites for marine life, though, are the sublittoral chalk ‘cliffs’ running parallel to the coast and just a couple of miles offshore, including South-West Rocks, Ship Rock and Looe Gate. Sussex is the only location in the UK where such chalk cliffs occur offshore. The vertical face of the chalk cliff faces inshore and ranges in height from 3m to next to nothing and is dotted with piddock holes, and small caves and overhangs, providing a rich habitat for a diversity of sponges, sea squirts, bryozoans, hydroids, and crustaceans. Only one mile offshore to the East of Shoreham Harbour are the Jennie Grounds, an extension of the chalky outcrops, although these only reach a metre in height, and are interspersed with gravels, mussel beds and rippled sand- and is a breeding ground for small fish and algae. At a depth of 8m, this area is suitable for novice divers and a great experience for a drift dive over varied terrain.
The many wrecks in the area also of course provide havens for marine life, including charismatic tompot blennies, shoals of bib and pollack, encrusting sponges, jewel anemones, cup corals and some exceptionally large conger eels.