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Cape Bank MPA

Status: Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ)

Cape Bank MCZ is a joint site with Natural England located in the Western Channel and Celtic Sea region to the west of Land’s End. The site covers an area of approximately 474 km2 and is mostly within the 12 nm territorial limit, therefore advice for this MPA is jointly delivered with Natural England. 


Cape Bank MCZ covers an area of approximately 474 km2. It lies to the west of Land's End Peninsula and extends to almost 25 km from the coast. Depths within the site range between 30 and 75 m.

The site lies across the 12 nm territorial sea limit, and therefore advice for this MPA is jointly delivered with Natural England.

Subtidal coarse sediment covers most of the site and is an important habitat for a variety of species that can be found buried within the substrate such as bristleworms, burrowing anemones and venus clams (Chamelea gallina). The sediment also provides nursery grounds for important fish species such as seabass (Dicentrarchus labrax) and sand eels (Ammodytes marinus).

Cape Bank MCZ contains a rocky reef system that extends in a broad arching crescent roughly in line with the coastline. The reef is a site of high biodiversity supporting species such as sponges, soft corals, cup corals and anemones, as well as starfish and sea urchins. The reef also provides habitat for the commercially important spiny lobster (Palinurus elephas).

The Cape Bank MCZ overlaps with the Lands End and Cape Bank SAC that has been identified for the protection of Annex I Reefs.

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

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

Map showing Cape Bank Marine Protected Area and linking to the MPA mapper


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


Protected Features

EUNIS Code: Protected Feature Feature Type
A4.2: Moderate energy circalittoral rock Broad-scale habitat
A5.1: Subtidal coarse sediment Broad-scale habitat

Specific information on the conservation objectives related 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 on this page and in JNCC’s MPA mapper and the evidence underpinning this can be viewed in the Evidence section.


Site Timeline

The diagram below is a summary of the key milestones involved in the selection and designation of the Cape Bank MCZ. More detail can be found within the Relevant Documentation section and in the post-consultation advice.

September 2011
Regional projects recommended a total of 127 MCZs to Defra and the statutory nature conservation bodies (SNCBs).
June 2018 – July 2018
Cape Bank rMCZ included in formal consultation on Tranche Three rMCZs.
May 2019
Tranche Three designations announced – Cape Bank MCZ designated.


Relevant Documentation

The documents referred to below and any other historical documents relating to Cape Bank MCZ 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. Further information about the Marine Conservation Zone site selection process and historic MCZ advice is available on JNCC's MCZ webpage.

  • Cape Bank MCZ Designation Order – the official description of the site designation under the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009. The Designation Order includes boundary co-ordinates, Conservation Objectives and a list of the designated features. More information on the Designation Order, including a designation map and factsheet is available on Defra's website.
  • Natural England's pre- and post-consultation scientific advice for features proposed for designation in 2019.
  • Natural England and JNCC's formal conservation advice for this site is available in the Conservation Advice section.



Last updated: July 2020

Information for this site summary was adapted from Natural England's scientific advice to Defra on Cape Bank MCZ and incorporates any further information gathered since this advice was produced. Please refer to the Relevant Documentation section for further details and information sources.


Site overview

Cape Bank MCZ was originally proposed by the Finding Sanctuary regional Project and is an inshore site that crosses the 12 nm boundary making it partially offshore. It covers an area of approximately 474 km2. The site is located within the Western Channel and Celtic Sea area to the west of Land's End Peninsula. The site occupies a depth range of 30 m to 75 m.

The site has an offshore upstanding reef which extends in a broad, arching crescent roughly aligned with the coastline and is almost entirely composed of granite. The rocky reef is the major feature of conservation interest at the site and fully submarine. The reef supports a high level of biodiversity including species such as sponges, soft corals, cup corals and anemones as well as starfish and sea urchins. The rocky reef is often covered in mixed tufted or encrusting animal colonies (bryozoans) that resemble mosses. The site provides habitat for the commercially important spiny lobster (Palinurus elephas).

Subtidal coarse sediment covers most of the site and provides a habitat for a variety of animals that can be found buried in the seabed, this includes bristleworms, burrowing anemones and venus clams (Chamelea gallina). The sediment also provides nursery grounds for important fish species such as seabass (Dicentrarchus labrax) and sand eels (Ammodytes marinus).

Further detail on the evidence for this MCZ can be found in the Evidence section.

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

Site area: 474 km2.

Site depth range: 30–75 m.

Charting Progress 2 Biogeographic Region: Western Channel & Celtic Seas.

Site boundary description:  The site straddles the 6 nm and 12 nm limits. The eastern boundary follows the boundary of the Cape Bank section of the Land's End to Cape Bank SAC. The western boundary extends beyond 12 nm. The boundary of the Cape Bank MCZ has not changed since it was recommended by the Finding Sanctuary Regional project in 2011 and follows the guidance provided by the MCZ project Ecological Network Guidance (ENG).



Last updated: July 2020 

Site-specific data

There are a range of data that underpin this MCZ. The full overview of these data used to support site identification along with information on confidence in feature presence and extent is available in Natural England's Tranche Three MCZ pre-consultation and post-consultation scientific advice for Marine Conservation Zones proposed for designation in 2019. JNCC will be adding relevant survey data for this MPA to its MPA mapper in due course.

Some of the data for this MCZ have been collected through collaborative surveys between Natural England and Cefas and some through other means. Data from these surveys provide direct evidence confirming the presence of the protected features within the site.


Conservation Advice

Last updated: July 2020 

The overarching conservation objectives for the site is for its designated feature either to remain in or reach favourable condition. The ability of a designated feature to remain in or reach favourable condition can be affected by its sensitivity to pressures associated with activities taking place within or in close proximity to a protected site.

Formal conservation advice is not currently available for this MPA and will be added in due course. JNCC will work alongside Natural England to develop a joint conservation advice package for this site.

In the interim, please see Natural England's Tranche 3 MCZ post-consultation advice for more detail.

Further information on Natural England’s conservation advice for Marine Protected Areas can be found on the Designated Sites System hosted by Natural England.


Activities and Management

Last updated: July 2020

Management status: To be assessed.

Information on the management for the site can be found in the Cape Bank MCZ Factsheet

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.

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.



Last updated: July 2020

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.



Last updated: July 2020

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 Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) have been achieved. Every six years from 2012, the Marine Act requires a report setting out how MCZs have performed against their conservation objectives, as well as the effectiveness of the network as a whole.

To date, three reports have been published, each setting out progress being made in implementing a Marine Protected Area network, covering the following areas:

Outputs of assessments that feed into Marine Act reporting 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).


Development and tools

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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