Protected Sites

The Lymington River estuary is recognised as an important area for nature conservation. It is part of a larger site that includes a number of designations made because of the presence of certain habitats, species, or numbers of a particular species found there.

Most of the Lymington River estuary falls within the Solent Special Protection Area (SPA) and Ramsar Site. The tidal areas of the estuary form part of the Solent Maritime Special Area of Conservation (SAC). A single management scheme exists for the SPA and SAC sites - The Solent European Marine Sites scheme (SEMS). This covers all SPA and SAC sites in the Solent and there is not a separate scheme specifically for the sites in the Lymington estuary.

The SEMS scheme includes a set of conservation objectives and a favourable condition table for the site, provided by Natural England. The management scheme considers all activities which take place within and adjacent to the SAC or SPA and assesses whether or not they will have an adverse effect on the site, and whether any form of control or prohibition is required. Any new projects or developments require separate consideration. In these circumstances, Natural England advise decision making bodies as to whether the proposal is likely to have a significant effect on the features of the designated site. Ramsar sites are very similar to SPAs in terms of locations and species, and also in the way they are considered.

Lymington Harbour Commission (LHC) has responsibilities under the SEMS management scheme to monitor and report any changes to activities in European designated sites within their jurisdiction. Since 2013, the monitoring continued under a new streamlined system, which is combined with other locations within the site to produce and identify any issues that require management.

For the latest information on the management and monitoring of the SEMS scheme, please visit the SEMS website. 

Official monitoring and reporting on the status of designated sites is undertaken by Natural England. Maps, the monitoring results, any required actions and those bodies responsible for these are available at Nature on the Map.

Saltmarsh Monitoring

A key challenge facing the harbour is that the salt marsh which has historically been providing shelter from wave attack is eroding. As it does so the shelter it provides from the full force of the sea is diminishing and eventually the harbour and the sea defences which protect the town will become fully exposed. Together with New Forest District Council, the Channel Coast Observatory and the Environment Agency, LHC continues to closely monitor the rates at which saltmarsh is being lost in order to guide its strategy for Harbour Protection.


Lymington Harbour Commissioners in collaboration with Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust have installed a new Seabin at Lymington Harbour. The Seabin will help tackle marine litter in the Solent and was launched as part of the Trust’s National Marine Week celebrations. The Seabin and interpretation panel will engage the public with the issue of marine plastic pollution and the impact this has on our marine life.

A Seabin is an award-winning piece of technology that helps remove litter from the marine environment. It sits in the water, attached to a structure like a pontoon, and floats up and down with the tide. It sucks in water from the surface and into an internal catch bag. Litter is stored inside and water is pumped back out. The device can catch a wide range of items from large plastic bottles to microplastics just 2mm in length. A single Seabin can collect over one tonne of litter each year – the equivalent of 50,000 plastic bottles or 40,000 drink cans.

This Seabin has been funded as part of the Trust’s marine project, Secrets of the Solent, which is supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. Each Seabin they have installed (this is the third in the Solent) is accompanied by an information board explaining the technology and its environmental benefits. The machine will be maintained by Lymington Harbour staff.

Jane Challener, Lymington Harbour Commissioner and Chair of the Environment Committee was present at the launch event which was covered by local media, including Meridian ITV on 5th August 2021.

Photo credit: HIWWT


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