Lyme Bay reef. Image: Mike Markey
The Lyme Bay Reefs, off the Devon and Dorset coast, have been ranked in ‘England’s top five rocky reefs’ for their abundance of wildlife.
Lyme Bay was officially designated a Special Area of Conservation in November 2011.
More than 300 species of plant and animal are found on the Lyme Bay reefs. They are home to seven species of coral, including the nationally protected pink sea fan and the extremely rare sunset cup coral, which is found at just three other sites in the UK.
These are accompanied by a host of colourful sponges, sea firs and starfish, making the Lyme Bay Reefs one of Britain’s most spectacular underwater landscapes.
The landscape is exceptionally fragile, and just a single pass from a heavy scallop dredge is enough to smash the corals and damage the underlying rock. Scientists estimate that it could take up to 20 years for the reefs to recover from dredging, and there is a risk that they may not recover at all.