The global marine environment has seen recent rapid growth in Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). In UK (English) waters, MPAs incorporate Special Protection Areas (SPAs), Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs), each with specific conservation objectives. In accordance with legislation, the UK has adopted a feature-based approach to MPA designation and monitoring, ... [Show full abstract] whereby protection of listed species and habitats are prioritised. The Eddystone Reef (part of the Start Point to Plymouth Sound and Eddystone SAC, South West UK) is designated solely for its reef features. The reef is at high risk from fisheries, particularly bottom-towed fishing gear. On 1st of January 2014 bottom-towed fisheries were prohibited within designated areas of the reef. In this study, images from drop-down camera surveys were analysed to quantitatively assess patterns in diversity and abundance of benthic fauna on reef and mixed substratum habitats that are closed, and remain open, to bottom-towed fisheries. Coarse sediments in areas closed to bottom-towed gear supported a greater abundance of sessile, upright, slow growing species (e.g. pink sea fans, ross coral, branching sponges) than were present in areas still actively towed over. Coarse sediments open to bottom-towed gear had greater abundances of motile, scavenging or opportunistic species. This study highlights the potential for positive conservation benefits beyond the traditional feature-based approach to MPA designation and monitoring. Further conservation gains could be made by reducing fragmentation of protected habitats and by increasing area coverage of statutory controls on bottom-towed fishing in already designated MPAs.