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The Barra Fan and Hebrides Terrace Seamount MPA

JNCC prepared updated formal conservation advice for The Barra Fan and Hebrides Terrace Seamount Nature Conservation MPA in 2018. Further information is available in the Conservation Advice section below.

Status: Nature Conservation Marine Protected Area (Nature Conservation MPA)

Situated to the west of Scotland, adjacent to the boundary with Irish waters, The Barra Fan and Hebrides Terrace Seamount Nature Conservation MPA follows the seabed as it descends from the top of the Hebridean continental slope down into the deep Rockall Trough and beyond.

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Site

The Barra Fan and Hebrides Terrace Seamount MPA, found to the west of Scotland, includes the Hebrides Terrace Seamount to the west of the site – a remnant of an ancient volcano. The seamount supports a diverse range of marine life, including cold-water corals and deep-sea sponges. These seamount communities are considered to be Threatened and/or Declining by the OSPAR Commission across the North-east Atlantic, as are orange roughy (Hoplostethus atlanticus); a long-lived deep-water fish found associated with The Hebrides Terrace Seamount. The ‘Fan’ is a geological protected feature of the site that was created when a large build-up of sediments underwent a series of submarine landslides. These landslides have subsequently been modified by water currents, and were long ago gouged by icebergs grounding on the seabed during past ice ages.

More detailed site information can be found in the Summary section below.

Map displaying the Barra Fan and Hebrides Seamount MPA boundary and associated protected feature data. Visit JNCC's MPA Mapper to further view and explore data for this MPA.

Map showing The Barra Fan and Hebrides Terrace Seamount Marine Protected Area and linking to the MPA mapper

Legislation

Legislation behind the designation: Marine and Coastal Access Act (2009).

 

Protected features

Features Feature Type
Burrowed mud (sea-pen and burrowing megafauna communities) Habitat
Seamount communities Habitat
Offshore deep-sea muds Habitat
Offshore subtidal sands and gravels Habitat
Orange roughy Mobile species
Continental slope Large-scale feature
Seamounts Large-scale feature

Geomorphological features representative of the Barra Fan and The Peaches Slide Complex Key Geodiversity Areasiceberg ploughmark field, prograding wedges, continental slope turbidite canyons, slide deposits,  scour moat, continental slope, Hebrides Terrace Seamount

Geomorphological

Specific information on the conservation objectives relating to this site is provided in the Conservation Advice section.

The acquisition of new data may result in updates to our knowledge on feature presence and extent within this site. The most up-to-date information is reflected on the map at the top of this section and in JNCC's MPA mapperwith the evidence underpinning available within the Evidence section below.

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Site Timeline

The diagram below is a summary of the key milestones involved in the selection and designation of The Barra Fan and Hebrides Terrace Seamount Nature Conservation MPA. More detail can be found in the Relevant Documentation section

November 2012
Site recommended to Marine Scotland.
Summer 2013
Site subject to formal public consultation and becomes material consideration in licensing processes.
July 2014
Site designated by Marine Scotland as a Nature Conservation MPA.

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Relevant Documentation

The documents referred to below and any other historical documents relating to The Barra Fan and Hebrides Terrace Seamount Nature Conservation MPA were produced during the selection and designation process and therefore may be out of date.  This Site Information Centre is the most up-to-date source of information for this MPA, and will reflect any additional information gathered since these documents were produced. Information about the Nature Conservation MPA site selection process is available on JNCC's Nature Conservation MPA webpages.

These documents are available on JNCC's Resource Hub

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Summary

Last updated: October 2017

The information for this site summary was adapted from documents listed in the Relevant Documentation section and incorporates any further information gathered since these documents were produced. 

 

Site Overview

Situated to the west of Scotland, adjacent to the boundary with Irish waters, The Barra Fan and Hebrides Terrace Seamount MPA follows the seabed from the top of the Hebridean continental slope as it descends into the deep Rockall Trough and beyond. The 'Fan' is a geological protected feature of the site that was created when a large build-up of sediments underwent a series of submarine landslides. These landslides have subsequently been modified by water currents, and were long ago gouged by icebergs grounding on the seabed during past ice ages. The Barra Fan is regarded as scientifically important because the morphology and sedimentary sequences have helped in furthering understanding of regional-scale palaeoceanographic changes as well as fluctuations in the extent of the last British Ice Sheet.

On the continental slope part of the MPA, mud, sand and gravel habitats are home to worms and other creatures that have adapted to living buried in and on the seabed. The base of the continental slope provides conditions for the establishment of burrowed mud habitat; specifically seapen and burrowing megafauna communities, which are considered Threatened and/or Declining across the North-east Atlantic by the OSPAR Commission. To the west of the site, the Hebrides Terrace Seamount rises to a height of almost 1 km above the surrounding seabed and is thought to represent a remnant of an ancient volcano. The seamount supports a diverse range of marine life, including cold-water corals and deep-sea sponges. These seamount communities are considered to be Threatened and/or Declining by the OSPAR Commission across the North-east Atlantic, as are orange roughy (Hoplostethus atlanticus); a long-lived deep-water fish found associated with The Hebrides Terrace Seamount. The seamount is thought to be significant to the health of Scotland’s seas due to the effect it has on the movement of underwater currents, which bring a good supply of food to the area. The resulting rich diversity supports many fish species, which in turn attract larger marine animals, such as sharks and whales. Further detail on the evidence for this Nature Conservation MPA can be found in the Evidence section.

Site location:  Co-ordinates for this Nature Conservation MPA can be found in the Designation Order listed in the Relevant Documentation section.

Site area: 4,373 km².

Site depth range: Depth of the site ranges from 2,341 m below sea-level at the lowest point of the Rockall Trough within this MPA, to 145 m in the east of the site.

Charting Progress 2 Biogeographic Region: Atlantic North-West Approaches, Rockall Trough and Faroe-Shetland Channel.

 

Site boundary description

On the Hebridean slope to the east of the MPA, the boundary captures the biological diversity of sediments that change with depth and include burrowed mud data points in the bathyal zone. To the west, the boundary has been drawn to encompass the full extent of The Hebrides Terrace Seamount in Scottish waters to support seamount communities and an orange roughy spawning aggregation. The area between the Hebridean continental slope and The Hebrides Terrace Seamount includes the geomorphological protected features of the site.

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Evidence

Last updated: October 2017

The full overview of the data used to support site identification along with information on confidence in feature presence and extent is available in the Barra Fan and Hebrides Terrace Seamount Nature Conservation MPA Data Confidence Assessment. JNCC will be adding relevant survey data for this MPA to its MPA mapper in due course.

Some of the data for this Nature Conservation MPA has been collected through JNCC-funded or collaborative surveys and some through other means.  Data from these surveys provide direct evidence confirming the presence of the protected features within the site.

 

Survey and data gathering

  • Habitat survey of The Hebrides Terrace Seamount (2012) – On behalf of JNCC, Herriot-Watt University conducted habitat surveys of the Hebrides Terrace Seamount using a remotely operated vehicle. The habitat surveys were an extension to the university’s planned research programme to study the functional ecology of cold-water coral habitats.

 

Data analysis reports

  • EMODnet – Provides supporting information on the presence and extent of sedimentary habitats from a predictive seabed habitat map of European waters. 
  • Biotope analysis of Marine Scotland Science underwater footage from the Hebridean Slope (2014) – Analysis of underwater video footage from Marine Scotland Science Nephrops norvegicus stock assessment surveys confirmed the presence of offshore subtidal sands and gravels on the Hebridean slope.
  • Mapping habitats and biotopes from acoustic datasets (Barra Fan and Hebrides Terrace Seamount Area) (2014) – Full coverage multibeam data were processed and interpreted by the National Oceanographic Centre to generate a new seabed substrate layer for parts of the site. The resulting habitat map was classed to level 4 of the deep-water section of the Marine Nature Conservation Review habitat classification scheme and further supports the presence of sedimentary habitats within the site.
  • Analysis of seabed imagery from the Hebrides Terrace Seamount (2013) (2014) – Three remotely operated vehicle transects were surveyed in 2012, one across the summit and two down the eastern slope. High Definition video and photographic images were acquired, which were analysed by Cross et al. (2014) to determine the biological communities present and whether they were characteristic of the seamount communities MPA search feature. From the underwater footage, biological communities attributable to the MPA search feature were identified from the two eastern transects.
  • Report on the identification of Key Geodiversity Areas in Scotland’s seas (2013) – Provides information on the presence and extent of important geological/geomphological areas in Scotland’s seas, which includes The Barra Fan and Peaches Slide Complex Key Geodiversity Areas of relevance to this Nature Conservation MPA.
  • Biotope analysis of archived stills from the Strategic Environmental Area 7 region of Scotland's seas (2011) (2014) – Hughes et al. (2014) characterised the biological diversity of the Hebridean continental slope based on archived stills data from 1988–1998. The findings indicate that five distinct biological zones with associated communities that change with depth on the slope and help to define the communities that characterise the protected features of the MPA.

 

Additional relevant literature

References for further supporting scientific literature consulted during the identification of this site can be found in the Data Confidence Assessment. Please be aware that although these sources contain information which is of interest in relation to this MPA, they do not necessarily represent the views of JNCC:

  • Henry, L.-A., Stehmann. M.F.W., De Clippele, L., Findlay, H.S., Golding, N. and Roberts, J.M. (2016). Seamount egg-laying grounds of the deep-water skate Bathyraja richardsoni. Journal of Fish Biology.
  • Henry, L.A., Vad. J., Findlay, H.S., Murillo, J., Milligan, R. & Murray Roberts, J. (2014) Environmental variability and biodiversity of megabenthos on the Hebrides Terrace Seamount (Northeast Atlantic). Science Report, 4: 5589.
  • Peer-reviewed papers published based on the findings of the Remotely Operated Vehicle dives on the Hebrides Terrace Seamount in 2012. 

 

Knowledge gaps

If you are aware of any additional information not referred to in the Relevant Documentation section, please contact us

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Conservation Advice

Last updated: March 2018

Updated formal conservation advice for this MPA was produced in March 2018.  Further information on the approach used to develop this advice is available on our Conserving MPAs webpage along with a Glossary of Terms used in JNCC's conservation advice and a short video explaining how to use the conservation advice packages. 

You must refer to this advice if you:

  • undertake an impact assessment for a plan or project that could impact the site;
  • provide information for such an assessment;
  •  respond to specific measures to further the conservation objectives for the site; and 
  • consider the need to put new or additional management measures in place.

You may also find it useful to refer to this advice if you:

  • carry out any other activity that could impact the site.

We will engage with stakeholders to identify any lessons which JNCC can learn from customers who have used the advice, with a view to continuing to ensure it is fit-for-purpose.

The following table provides an overview of the components of the conservation advice, and provides hyperlinks to each of the products for this MPA.  These elements together form JNCC’s formal conservation advice for this site and should be read in conjunction with each other.  This advice reflects the most up-to-date evidence held by JNCC (correct as of March 2018).  

Document

Overview

Background Information

Explains the purpose of the advice and when it must be referred to.

Conservation Objectives

Supplementary Advice on the Conservation Objectives (SACO)

 

The Conservation Objectives set out the broad ecological aims for the site. JNCC provides supplementary advice in the SACO which is essential reading to support interpretation of these conservation objectives.

You can use these documents to assess the impacts of your planned activity on the important attributes of the site.

Please note our current understanding of whether the available evidence indicates that each attribute needs to be recovered or maintained is not provided here. However, links to available evidence for the site are provided and should you require further site-specific information for the site, please contact us.

Conservation advice statements

These statements provide a summary of the Supplementary Advice on the Conservation Objectives (SACO).

  • Site condition presents our up-to-date understanding of the condition of features within the site;
  • Conservation benefits which the site can provide, these help you understand what is important about the site and why it needs protecting; and
  • Conservation measures which JNCC considers are needed to support achievement of the conservation objectives. These provide clarity around measures needed to support restoration or maintenance of the feature(s) within the site.

Feature Activity Sensitivity Tool (FeAST)

Provides an initial assessment of whether a proposed plan or project (or ongoing activity) may have an impact on a protected feature in the site.

FeAST identifies pressures associated with the most commonly occurring marine activities, and provides a detailed assessment of feature sensitivity to these pressures. A human activity is considered capable of affecting, other than insignificantly, a feature where the feature is known to be sensitive to associated pressures.

The sensitivity assessments provided in FeAST, should be used at an early stage of a plan or project when considering potential impacts of an activity.

These documents are all available on JNCC's Resource Hub

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Activities and Management

Last updated: October 2017

Management status: Progressing towards being well managed

Progress is ongoing with the recommendation of fisheries management proposals to the European Commission, site condition monitoring work will be required in order to conclude with confidence as to the degree to which the site is moving towards or achieving its conservation objectives.

This site forms part of the UK's contribution to the OSPAR Commission’s network of MPAs. As the UK is a contracting party to the OSPAR Commission, JNCC is committed to ensuring that the OSPAR MPA network is 'well-managed' by 2020.

JNCC considers 'well-managed' to mean the timely progress of an MPA around the 'MPA management cycle'. This involves:

  1. The documentation of appropriate management information – conservation objectives, advice on activities capable of affecting the protected features of a site, and spatial information on the presence and extent of the protected features of a site.
  2. The implementation of management measures – management actions considered necessary to achieve the conservation objectives of a site.
  3. Site condition monitoring programmes – collecting the information necessary to determine progress towards a site's conservation objectives.
  4. Assessment of progress towards conservation objectives – using available information to infer whether or not a site is moving towards or has achieved its conservation objectives.

The sub-sections that follow provide an account of the progress of The Barra Fan and Hebrides Terrace Seamount Nature Conservation MPA around each of these four stages in the MPA management cycle: 

 

1. The documentation of appropriate management information

  • The conservation objectives and advice on activities capable of affecting the conservation status of the protected feature of this site are available under the Conservation Advice section. Further information is available on our 'Conserving MPAs' webpage.
  • Spatial information on the presence and extent of the protected feature of this MPA is available via JNCC's MPA mapper.
  • JNCC is in the process of developing downloadable MPA data packages where appropriate permissions to share datasets are in place.

 

2. The implementation of management measures

This section details progress towards the implementation of management measures for activities considered capable of affecting the conservation status of the protected features of the site. The protected features of the site are considered to be sensitive to pressures associated with fishing and 'licensable' activities. 

Fisheries

  • Prior to 2016 there is evidence of mobile demersal, static and pelagic effort within the MPA, and UK and non-UK registered vessels have been active in the area. 
  • Marine Scotland is the lead authority regarding the implementation of, and compliance with, any measures to managing fishing activity. Further information on progress is available via Marine Scotland's webpages.
  • In compliance with Article 8 of the deep-sea Regulation (EU) 2016/2336, a ban on the use of all bottom-contacting mobile gear has been introduced below 800 m depth across all European waters. This applies across the area of The Barra Fan and Hebrides Terrace Seamount MPA where the depth falls below 800 m. Article 9 of this same regulation also sets out rules for fishing between 400 m and 800 m where Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems (VMEs) are present, or are likely to occur. These rules aim to minimise the impact of fishing activities on VMEs.
  • Fishing with bottom-set gillnets, entangling nets and trammel nets below 600m is also prohibited for the protection of deepwater shark species under Council Regulation (EC) 2019/1241, and there are additional restrictions on their use between 200 m and 600 m. This regulation also applies to those areas beyond Union waters, but within the North-East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC) technical measures regulatory area.

Licensable activities

  • There are currently no licensed activities taking place within The Barra Fan and Hebrides Terrace Seamount Nature Conservation MPA. However, oil and gas blocks licenced  in the 29th licencing round overlap the east of the MPA, and so may be subject to development in the future.
  • Licensable activities such as oil and gas exploration and production taking place or that may take place within this MPA are managed in accordance with the clauses set out under Section 127 of The Marine & Coastal Access Act (2009). Under this clause, JNCC has a statutory responsibility to advise the regulator on developments that are capable of affecting (other than insignificantly) the protected features of the MPA and that may hinder the achievement of the site's conservation objectives. JNCC considers the existing marine licensing process is sufficient to ensure the management of licensable activities taking place, or that could take place in the future, on the protected features of this MPA.
  • For further information, see Marine Scotland’s MPA Draft Management Handbook and Marine Scotland’s guidance for marine license applications
  • Further information on JNCC's role in the provision of advice for licensed activities in the UK offshore area is available on JNCC's offshore industry advice webpages

 

3. Site condition monitoring

Site condition monitoring surveys are yet to take place within this MPA. Further information will be made available under the Monitoring section in due course.

 

4. Assessment of progress towards conservation objectives

No long-term condition monitoring data is available to determine whether the MPA is moving towards, or has reached, its conservation objectives. Further information will be provided under the Assessment section as it becomes available.

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Monitoring

Last updated: October 2017

JNCC is currently leading on the development of a strategy for biodiversity monitoring across all UK waters, to include MPA monitoring. For MPAs, data and evidence collected from monitoring activities will aim to:

  • Enable assessment of condition of the features within sites;
  • Enable assessment of the degree to which management measures are effective in achieving the conservation objectives for the protected features;
  • Support the identification of priorities for future protection and/or management; and,
  • Enable Government to fulfil its national and international assessment and reporting commitments in relation to MPAs and help identify where further action may be required.

Information on monitoring of this MPA will be provided when it becomes available.

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Assessment

Last updated: October 2017

Assessments of the condition of designated features in offshore MPAs are required to report against our legal obligations. Ideally these assessments should be based on observed data, and then measured against targets for pre-defined indicators. However, for MPAs in offshore waters we do not always have the appropriate information to be able to do so. This is particularly true for seabed habitats, which are the main type of feature designated for protection in offshore MPAs. 

To address these challenges, JNCC has been an active partner in the development of new approaches and tools for the assessment of habitats and species for a variety of national and international status reports.

 

Conservation Assessment Reports

Under Section 124 of the UK Marine & Coastal Access Act (2009), JNCC is required to report to Ministers every six years on the degree to which the conservation objectives of the protected features of a site have been achieved. Every six years from 2012, the Marine Act requires a report setting out how NCMPAs have performed against their conservation objectives, as well as the effectiveness of the network as a whole. Marine Scotland has published a report setting out progress being made in implementing a Marine Protected Area network that supports the Government’s vision of clean, healthy, safe, productive, biologically diverse marine and coastal environment, managed to meet the long-term needs of nature and people.

Outputs of assessments that feed into Marine Act reporting will also feed into reporting under other obligations.

 

UK State of the Seas Reports & UK Marine Strategy Part 1

Charting Progress 2 (CP2) published in 2010, is a comprehensive report on the state of the UK seas. It was published by the UK Marine Monitoring and Assessment Strategy (UKMMAS) community which has over 40 member organisations. The report was based on a robust, peer-reviewed evidence base and describes progress made since the publication of Charting Progress in 2005. It provides key findings from UK marine research and monitoring for use by policy makers and others, as we move towards the UK vision of clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse oceans and seas. The results from CP2 were incorporated into the UK Marine Strategy Part 1: UK Initial Assessment and Good Environmental Status published in 2012 under the UK Marine Strategy Regulations (2010). The UK Marine Strategy Part 1 (2012) also set out the UK’s definition for Good Environmental Status, which could be achieved by meeting a series of environmental targets. JNCC worked with other organisations in the UKMMAS community to develop a series of indicators that were used to assess progress against each of the targets and to report on progress made since 2012. The results of these assessments have been published in the UK Marine Strategy Part 1: UK Updated Assessment and Good Environmental Status in 2019. Detailed evidence used to make these assessments is available via the Marine Online Assessment Tool (MOAT). It also sets out proposals for updated high-level objectives, targets and operational targets to be used for 2018 to 2024, which build on those set in 2012.

It is worth noting the two other parts of the UK Marine Strategy: UK Marine Strategy Part Two: marine monitoring programmes, published in 2014 and UK Marine Strategy Part Three: programme of measures published in 2015. Updates to these will be made in 2020 and 2021 respectively.

 

OSPAR Quality Status Reports

Many of the assessments in the updated UK Marine Strategy Part 1 2019 were developed and produced in collaboration with other contracting Parties of the OSPAR Convention for the Protection of the North East Atlantic. In 2017 OSPAR Published its Intermediate Assessment (IA2017). The IA 2017 further develops OSPAR’s understanding of the marine environment of the North-East Atlantic and its current status. It demonstrates OSPAR’s progress towards realising its vision of a clean, healthy and biologically diverse North-East Atlantic, used sustainably. IA2017 follows on from OSPAR’s previous holistic assessment, the OSPAR Quality Status Report in 2010 (QSR2010) and in 2000 (QSR2000).

 

JNCC continues to develop and pilot tools for the assessment of marine habitats and species in offshore waters to improve the quality and transparency of our offshore MPA assessments, and contribute to the monitoring of marine biodiversity in UK waters. These tools cover methods for producing interim assessments of site features and their responses to pressures, as well as developing more robust indicators for determining condition of the features.

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