Chesil Beach and the Fleet Lagoon

18 miles and 180 billion pebbles

Fleet designations
Introduction Designations Swannery Ferrybridges Tides Pictures Chesil Home

The Fleet is an important area for wildlife and is a Marine Protected Area (MPA) because of a number of designations listed below. JNCC  define an MPA as’ being broadly defined as a clearly defined geographic space, recognised, dedicated and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long term conservation of nature with associated ecosystems and cultural values’. The JNCC website has a discussion and listing of UK MPA’s. There is also a website describing the MPA’s in Dorset, which includes a description of the Fleet Lagoon MPA.

The Fleet Lagoon has received the following designations:

 Special Area of Conservation (SAC)

A special Area of Conservation is designated by The UK Government as advised by JNCC to protect habitats or species (except birds) listed in Annexes 1 and 2 of the Habitats Directive (European Council Directive 92/43/EEC). The Fleet is in UK0017076. The Fleet is feature 1150: a coastal lagoon, and is the priority feature of the SAC. The designation can be found here.

Special Protection Area (SPA)

SPA’s are protected areas for birds under the Wildlife & Countryside Act of 1981 and later amendments. The Fleet is area UK9010091. The specific species listed are the little tern Sternula albifrons and the widgeon Anas penelope. The designation document can be found here.

 A Ramsar site

 A Ramsar site is a wetland of international importance designated under the Ramsar Convention. The Fleet is area UK11012. It is designated because ‘The Fleet is an outstanding example of rare lagoon habitats and is the largest of its kind in the UK’. The Fleet has 15 specialist lagoon species, 5 scarce wetland plants and 10 scarce wetland animals. It is also a nursery area for the bass Dicentrarchus labrax. Two birds are also identified as being important; the dark-bellied brent goose, Branta bernicla, and the mute swan, Cygnus olor. The designation is available here.

Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)

A SSSI is land designated under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 as being ‘the finest sites for wildlife and natural features in England supporting many characteristic, rare and endangered species, habitats and natural features’. The ‘Chesil and the Fleet’ citation information is available from the Natural England website.

Designated bass nursery area

The Fleet is a designated Bass nursery area. The designation covers all tidal waters inside of Ferrybridge and bans all fishing for bass or fishing for any other species of sea fish using sand-eels (Ammodytidae) as bait for the whole year. Information is available from SIFCA here.


The Fleet lies within the Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Click here for more information.

Chesil Bank and the Fleet Nature Reserve

The Fleet lagoon lies within the Chesil Bank and the Fleet Nature Reserve.  This is an informal reserve managed by a warden from the Ilchester Estates. For more information on the Reserve visit their website.

Jurassic Coast

The Fleet lies within the Jurassic Coast UNESCO World Heritage Site. Click here for more information on the Jurassic Coast.

Up to 5000 brent geese over-winter on the Fleet.

Little egrets, Egretta garzetta, are often seen in the shallow waters at the edge of the Fleet

For a list of rare and endangered plant species that can be found in and around the Fleet click here. Other species lists available are:



For a checklist of the birds of Chesil Beach and the Fleet click here. This list has been prepared by Steve Groves.

Brent geese feeding on the Ferrybridge sandflats

Little tern, sternula albifrons. Picture: A. Thomas

Mute swan