Gem off the coast of Worthing and Littlehampton is ‘so special’

If you have watched Blue Planet or other undersea documentaries, you would think that colourful reefs and fish cannot be found anywhere near Worthing.

But you would be wrong, as Kingmere MCZ (Marine Conservation Zone), a thriving chalk reef, is only 5 to 10km off the coast of Worthing and Littlehampton.

Underwater photographer Matt Doggett captured this image at Kingmere MCZ

Underwater photographer Matt Doggett captured this image at Kingmere MCZ

Home to more than 280 marine species, Kingmere was designated as a protected area in 2013 because of its fragile chalk reefs.

Each spring, thousands of black seabreams arrive to nest, and a new exhibition at Colonnade House, in Warwick Street, Worthing, is giving residents an insight into the unusual behaviour of these fish.

Worthing’s Super-Dads of the Sea, running at Colonnade House until February 24, aims to inform visitors about the little-known reef and the creatures that live in it.

Organiser Alice Tebb, from the Marine Conservation Society, said: “People see the sea all the time in Worthing, but they don’t know about all of the life within it.

“We want more people to be aware of what makes our local sea so special. They should be proud about it.”

The black seabream is one of those special things.

Interestingly, it is the males in this species that set up nests and aggressively defend them from predators, including attacking undersea cameras.

But they are also financially important for Worthing.

Barry Godhew, of the Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (IFCA), said: “Anglers come from all over the country for black seabream here.

“The MCZ is also great for shellfish. Kingmere is an important economic driver for the area.”

Tim Macpherson, of the Angling Trust, added: “Kingmere’s more important than most people think. It’s a little gem just off the coast that no one really knows about.”

Due to the zone’s protected status, local fishermen work with IFCA to ensure fish populations can recover.

This is an agreement that all involved seem happy with, especially the creatures that live in Kingmere.

As well as being home to the nesting seabream, the rare chalk cliffs play host to conger eels, dogfish and tompot blennies, as well as spider crabs and lobsters.

The undersea cliffs, known as the Worthing Lumps, are believed to be at least 78 million years old.

But they still stand today, as they should for many more years thanks to the area’s protected status.

Though it’s not as visible as the towering South Downs, Kingmere is still every bit as important for Worthing, both environmentally and economically.

It is harder to reach for the average resident, yes, but it is still another reason to be proud to live where we do.

To find out more about Kingmere MCZ, visit kingmeremcz.uk

Sneak preview of the wonderful underwater world off the coast of Worthing and Littlehampton, ahead of website launch

Explore undersea world off the coast of Worthing and Littlehampton at new interactive exhibition on Kingmere MCZ