By James Albrecht
As part of JNCC’s remit to monitor the condition of the UK’s offshore Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), offshore being beyond 12 nautical miles from shore, we will soon be embarking on a survey of the Faroe-Shetland Sponge Belt MPA aboard the MRV Scotia. A team of JNCC and Marine Scotland Science scientists will be returning to the Faroe-Shetland Sponge Belt for the third time since 2012. Information about these previous surveys can be found on the JNCC Blog.
© Liam Matear
Faroe-Shetland Sponge Belt is a large MPA. With an area of 5,278 km2 its roughly the same size as the county of Sutherland at 5,252 km2. So it’s going to be a busy few weeks at sea on this survey, which will be between 20 August and 06 September. Fingers crossed for good weather!
This is an exciting site with unique environmental conditions created by the interaction of warm North Atlantic and cold Arctic water masses. The MPA covers an area of the continental slope with a depth range of 300–1,000 m, and the sponge belt occurs between 400 m and 600 m depth. Within this belt conditions are ideal for sponges, and they can grow to form dense deep-sea sponge aggregations. The MPA also provides habitat for species that live on or in deep-sea sandy or gravelly habitats.
For further information about the Faroe-Shetland Sponge Belt MPA, including videos and photos, please see the Site Information Centre.
Dense sponge aggregation from the sponge belt (©JNCC/MSS)
Bright yellow "feather stars" Heliometra glacialis living on a gravelly seabed (©JNCC/MSS).
Stay tuned to our blog and follow @JNCC_UK on Twitter to find out more about this survey.