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Bassurelle Sandbank MPA

Status: Special Area of Conservation (SAC)

Located in the Dover Straight and straddling the boundary between UK and French waters, the Bassurelle Sandbank is an open shelf ridge sandbank formed by tidal currents.


The Bassurelle Sandbank is an open shelf ridge sandbank formed by tidal currents located in the Dover Strait and straddling the boundary between UK and french waters. Sand waves and megaripples of up to 2.5 m in height are abundant on parts of the bank. The biological communities present are dominated by polychaete worms, which are typical of sandy sediments.

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


Map displaying the Bassurelle Sandbank MPA boundary and associated protected feature data. Visit JNCC's MPA Mapper to further view and explore data for this MPA.

Map showing Bassurelle Sandbank Marine Protected Area and linking to the MPA mapper


Legislation behind the designation: EU Habitats Directive 1992 transposed into UK law by the Conservation of Offshore Marine Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 (as amended).


Protected Features

Protected Feature Feature Type
1110 Sandbanks which are slightly covered by seawater all the time Annex I Habitat


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 Mapperand the evidence underpinning this is available in the Monitoring and Evidence section.


Site Timeline

The diagram below is a summary of the key milestones involved in the selection and designation of Bassurelle Sandbank. More detail can be found in the Relevant Documentation section below.

February 2009
Site formally recommended to the UK Government as a draft Special Area of Conservation (SAC).
November 2009
Impact Assessment and report on public consultation submitted. Site becomes a possible SAC.
August 2010
Submitted to the European Commission. The Habitats Regulations now formally apply to this MPA.
November 2011
Site is approved by the European Commission as a Site of Community Importance (SCI).
September 2017
Site is formally designated as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) by UK Government.


Relevant Documentation

The documents referred to below and any other historical documents relating to Bassurelle Sandbank 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 SAC site selection process is available on JNCC's SAC webpages.

These resources are available on JNCC's Resource Hub



Last updated: October 2017

Information for this site summary was adapted from the SAC Selection Assessment Document and incorporates any further information gathered since these documents were produced. Please refer to this document in the Relevant Documentation section for further details and information sources.

The Bassurelle Sandbank is a linear sandbank in the Dover Strait which straddles the boundary between UK and French waters. The part of the sandbank within UK waters is approximately 2.5 km at its widest point, and has a maximum height of around 15 m. It extends for about 15 km in a north-east to south-west direction to the UK-France median line, and then continues for some distance into French waters.

The sandbank is comprised of a mixture of sand and gravelly sand, with shell and gravel visible at the surface. Although the surrounding seabed is also predominantly sandy, Bassurelle Sandbank is distinct due to the thickness of the sediment (up to 25 m thick) and the elevation above the surrounding area. The surface tidal currents along the bank are weak to moderately strong (peak spring surface current velocity of 0.7 m/s), and run along the direction of the sandbank.

Areas of fine sand within the site have an infaunal community dominated by polychaete worms, including species such as Lagis koreni and Spiophanes bombyx, and the bivalves Moerella pygmaea (little tellin) and Ensis sp. (razorshell). In places on Bassurelle Sandbank, and on the margin of the wider sandwave field, the sediment is slightly more gravelly and shelly, with the coarser sediment often collecting in the troughs between sandwaves. In these areas, a slightly different infaunal community of polychaete worms is found.


Site Overview

The epifaunal community present on the Bassurelle Sandbank is typical of a sand and gravelly sand habitat. On the bank itself, the hermit crab Pagurus bernhardus was observed, as was the brittlestar Ophiura spp. and the hydroid Hydrallmania falcata, which was observed attached to shell and gravel fragments. The sand eel (Ammodytes tobianus) and weever fish (Echiichthys) were characteristically present, although these were absent from the sandy areas surrounding the bank. The region is a nursery area for lemon sole, mackerel and sand eel and a spawning area for cod, lemon sole, sole, plaice, sand eel and sprat.

This site is adjacent to the Ridens et dunes hydrauliques du Detroit du Pas de Calais SAC in French waters.

Further detail on the evidence for this SAC can be found in the Monitoring and Evidence section.

Site location: Co-ordinates for this SAC can be found in the Standard Data Form listed in the Relevant Documentation section.

Site area: 67 km2

Site depth range: 8 m below sea-level on the top of the bank feature, down to 140 m below sea-level at its base.

Charting Progress 2 biogeographic region: Eastern English Channel.

Site Boundary Description: The proposed boundary is a simple polygon enclosing the minimum area necessary to ensure protection of the Annex I habitat, following the extent of the habitat feature as closely as possible. The boundary has been drawn to closely follow the 30 m contour, which appears (from Admiralty Charts and recent survey data) to correspond with the extent of the sandbank. The southern boundary has also been aligned with the proposed boundary of the Ridens et dunes hydrauliques du Detroit du Pas de Calais SAC (Megaripples and hydraulic dunes in the Pas-de-Calais/Dover Strait). The site encompasses a number of different sandbanks in French waters, including the remainder of Bassurelle Sandbank. No margin to allow for mobile gear was applied to Bassurelle Sandbank SAC given the shallow water depth at this site and the lack of a precise feature edge from which to add a margin.


Monitoring and Evidence

Last updated: November 2023

There are a range of data that underpin this SAC. 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 Bassurelle Sandbank SAC Selection Assessment Document. JNCC will be adding relevant survey data for this MPA to its MPA Mapper in due course.

Some of the data for this SAC 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

  • Offshore seabed survey of Bassurelle Sandbank SAC (2017) – A dedicated multi-disciplinary survey of the Bassurelle Sandbank SAC was conducted in July 2017. The principal aim of the survey was to collect additional information to increase current knowledge of the distribution and heterogeneity of benthic habitats and communities present, to assist the development of future management advice and plans.
  • Bassurelle Sandbank offshore seabed survey (2013) – JNCC commissioned the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS) to undertake an offshore seabed survey of Bassurelle sandbank SAC. High resolution multi-beam, video and grabs were collected, providing further acoustic ground-truthing data for the site. The outputs include an assessment of the biological communities associated with the site. 


Data Analysis reports

  • MPA monitoring report (2017) – This monitoring report is informed by data acquired during the first Sentinel (Type 1) monitoring survey carried out at the Bassurelle Sandbank SAC in 2017. The report describes the extent and distribution of the topographical sandbank and supporting habitat, and determines the structural and functional attributes of this feature. It also compares sediment composition and biological assemblages to observations made during the habitat verification survey in 2013.
  • Offshore seabed survey survey data analysis report (2013) – This report describes the findings of a 2013 dedicated survey by JNCC in partnership with Cefas to Bassurelle Sandbank Site of Community Importance (SCI).
  • The Eastern English Channel Marine Habitat Map (2007) – James et al. (2007) Cefas Science Series Technical Report 139. JNCC collaborated in this survey of the Eastern English Channel conducted two geophysical and one two biological surveys between 2005 and 2006. The survey extent only covers half of the UK portion of Bassurelle sandbank with the remainder of the bank within UK waters lying outside of the survey area.


Additional relevant literature

Please be aware that although these sources contain information in relation to this MPA, they do not necessarily represent the views of JNCC:

  • Eastwood, P, D., Mills, C, M., Aldridge, J, N., Houghton, C, A. and Rogers, S, I. (2007). Human activities in UK offshore waters: an assessment of direct, physical pressure on the seabed. ICES Journal of Marine Science, 64: 453-463.


Knowledge gaps

As part of the UK Marine Monitoring and Assessment Strategy (UKMMAS), JNCC led the development of a UK Marine Biodiversity Monitoring Strategy, working with partners across the UK monitoring community. The Strategy spans UK territorial and offshore waters, focusing on biodiversity in the wider environment and within Marine Protected Areas.  Its aim is to implement efficient, integrated monitoring of marine biodiversity to provide the evidence needed for all the UK's policy drivers.

The evidence collected during MPA monitoring surveys is used in combination with other available evidence to:

  • Enable assessment of condition of the features within sites;
  • Contribute to the 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.

More detail on offshore MPA monitoring can be found on the Offshore MPA monitoring webpage. A list of monitoring surveys and relevant reports can be found  on the MPA monitoring survey reports webpage.

If you are aware of any additional data or relevant scientific papers for this site not listed in the Relevant Documentation section, or the Bassurelle Sandbank Selection Assessment Document listed in the relevant documents, please contact us.


Conservation Advice

Last updated: April 2018

Updated formal conservation advice is now available for this MPA. Further information on the approach used to develop this advice is available on the Conservation Advice webpages along with a Glossary of Terms used in JNCC conservation advice and a short video explaining how to use the conservation advice packages. 

You must refer to this advice if you:

  • undertake a Habitats Regulation Assessment (HRA) for a plan or project that could impact the site;
  • provide information for a HRA;
  •  respond to specific measures to support delivery of 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 updated advice replaces the previous Regulation 18 package for the site. This advice reflects the most up-to-date evidence held by JNCC (correct as of April 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. It provides further detail and site-specific information for each feature within the site including which of the attributes need to be conserved and which ones recovered.

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.
Advice on Operations

Provides information on the activities capable of affecting site integrity and therefore achievement of the site’s conservation objectives.

This is a starting point for determining potential management requirements. It does not take into account the intensity, frequency or cumulative impacts from activities taking place. It is simply to advise you of the possible adverse impacts that your activity can have on a MPA’s features.

Use the advice on operations to determine those pressures your activity causes that could harm the habitat and/or species features of the site.

These resources are available on JNCC's Resource Hub


Activities and Management

Last updated: October 2017

Management status: Progressing towards being well managed.

Progress is ongoing with the recommendation of fisheries management proposals. A research and development monitoring survey will be undertaken to improve our understanding as to whether the MPA is moving towards or has reached its conservation objectives.

This site forms part of the networks of MPAs across the UK and contributes to international MPA networks such as that of the North-east Atlantic under OSPAR. As the UK is a contracting party to the OSPAR Commission, JNCC is committed to ensuring that the OSPAR MPA network is well-managed.

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 Bassurelle Sandbank SAC around each of the 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. 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 feature of the site. The protected feature of the site is considered to be sensitive to pressures associated with fishing and 'licensable' activities.


  • There is evidence of mobile demersal effort within the MPA and UK and non-UK registered vessels active in the area.
  • The Marine Management Organisation is the lead authority regarding the implementation of, and compliance with, any measures to managing fishing activity. Further information on progress is available on the Marine Management Organisation’s webpages.

Licensable activities

  • Whilst 'licensable' activities such as oil and gas exploration and production do not take place within Bassurelle Sandbank SAC at present, any future proposals would have to comply with Regulation 28 (Protection of European offshore marine sites and European sites) of The Conservation of Offshore Marine Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 (as amended).
  • Our conservation advice supports the consents process by setting out the conservation objectives for the protected feature of this MPA and advice on activities that may result in pressures to which the protected feature is considered sensitive.
  • 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

A baseline condition monitoring survey for this MPA was undertaken in Spring 2017. The results of this survey are not yet available. Further information will be made available under the Monitoring and Evidence 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. The site has a ‘restore’ conservation objective based on the findings of a vulnerability assessment (exposure the activities associated with pressures to which the protected features of the site are considered sensitive).



Published: .

This Site Information Centre (SIC) was created prior to the end of the Transition Period following the UK’s exit from the European Union (31 December 2020). Therefore some of the content may still refer to EU legislation and management proposals or commitments which were correct at the time that the content was created. These references will be revised as necessary when the SIC is next substantially revised. Requirements through EU legislation are retained in the UK so existing environmental protections and standards remain, and the protection given to habitats and species continues.

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