The Solent Maritime Special Area of Conservation encompasses much of the Hampshire and north Isle of Wight coasts along with some of Southampton Water and eight estuaries (Beaulieu, Chichester Harbour, Hamble, King’s Quay Shore, Langstone Harbour, Medina, Newtown Harbour and Yar). The Solent and its inlets are unique in Britain and Europe for their unusual tidal regime, including double tides, and is one of the only major sheltered channels in Europe, lying between a substantial island (the Isle of Wight) and the mainland

The Solent has a large human population, with thriving industrial and tourism sectors, so interests need to be carefully managed to maintain the area’s diversity, rarity and beauty.

SAC status provides a legal framework to support and protect the marine environment from the combined pressures which impact upon it. In the Solent, those pressures include commercial and naval shipping, commercial and recreational fishing and boating, as well as other water sports. Water quality is affected by agricultural run-off into rivers and estuaries from surrounding farmland, sewage releases and many diffuse pollution inputs from the land, including litter.

Moored Boats at Hamble. Photo credit Kate Fortnam
Moored Boats at Hamble/Kate Fortnam

The Solent Maritime has been designated as a SAC for the estuarine and coastal features here, including extensive areas of intertidal mudflats and sandflats and subtidal sandbanks, both of which support seagrass beds.  These habitats provide a vital food source for birds, with Solent shores supporting more than 125,000 internationally and nationally important birds each winter, as well as providing key nursery areas for fish.

The SAC also supports many commercially important species, including sea bass, cuttlefish and spider crabs, all using habitats like seagrass for foraging and for breeding and nursery grounds.

Both species of British seahorse use the Solent’s seagrass meadows as habitat, while other marine creatures such as pipefish can be found here too, weaving around foraging for food and using the seagrass as camouflage. Other notable Solent sea life includes resident harbour seals, thresher sharks visiting in summertime, and peacock’s tail alga, on the very north eastern fringes of its range on the Isle of Wight.

ReMEDIES is collaborating with Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, World Wildlife Fund, Isle of Wight Estuaries Officer and Project Seagrass on seagrass restoration in the Solent.

The latest from this SAC

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Solent seagrass/Project Baseline UK

Seeds collected for Solent seagrass restoration

Scuba divers have collected more than half a million seeds from healthy seagrass meadows around Osborne Bay, Yarmouth and Bouldnor in the Solent for replanting in parts of the Solent where seagrass has been lost or degraded. More seed collection dives will take place in Looe and Falmouth in Cornwall this month. It is part…

Seagrass seeds. Photo credit Ocean Conservation Trust

Life in the lab

Our new seagrass cultivation officer, Amelia Newman based at Ocean Conservation Trust, has just finished preparing the seagrass lab at the National Marine Aquarium ready for the next stage of our restoration work…  It’s a busy time in the lab as we care for more than 3 million seagrass seeds that will be used in…

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