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Dogger Bank MPA

Please be advised that, as of 13 June 2022, fisheries management measures came into force for Dogger Bank SAC. For more information about what these fisheries measures are, please visit the website.

Status: Special Area of Conservation (SAC)

The Dogger Bank is the largest sandbank in UK waters and extends into both Dutch and German waters. It is home to a variety of species which live both on and within the sandy sediment.




The Dogger Bank is the largest sandbank in UK waters and is home to a variety of species which live both on and within the sandy sediment.  These species include segmented polychaete worms, shrimp-like amphipods, and small clams which burrow into the sand. Animals like hermit crabs, flatfish and starfish also live on top of the sandbank. The location of Dogger Bank in the open sea means that it is exposed to waves, which in turn prevents the shallower parts of the bank having any vegetation growing on it. Long thin silver sandeels can be found on the sides of the sandbank and are food for many seabirds, whales, dolphins and fish such as cod. The Dogger Bank MPA overlaps with a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) that has been identified for the protection of Harbour porpoise – the Southern North Sea SAC. For more information on this MPA, please see the Southern North Sea MPA Site Information Centre.

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

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

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


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


Protected Features

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 are reflected on the map on this page and in JNCC’s MPA Mapper and the evidence underpinning this can be viewed 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 Dogger Bank. More detail can be found in the Relevant Documentation section.

January 2008
Site formally recommended to the UK Government as a draft Special Area of Conservation (SAC).
August 2010
Formal public consultation. Site becomes a possible SAC.
August 2011
Submitted to the European Commission. The Habitats Regulations now formally apply to this MPA.
December 2012
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 the UK Government.


Relevant Documentation

The documents referred to below and any other historical documents relating to Dogger Bank 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

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


Site overview

The Dogger Bank is the largest single continuous expanse of shallow sandbank in UK waters which was formed by glacial processes before being submerged through sea-level rise. It is located in the Southern North Sea, approximately 150 km  north-east of the Humber Estuary.  The Dogger Bank region is an important location for the North Sea harbour porpoise population and as such, they are included as a non-qualifying feature. Grey and common seals are known to visit the bank and are also included as non-qualifying features at the site.

The southern area of the bank is covered by water seldom deeper than 20 m and extends within the SAC in UK waters down to 35–40 m deep. The bank structure slopes down to greater than 50 m deep in UK, Dutch and German waters. Its location in the open sea exposes the bank to substantial wave energy and prevents the colonisation of the sand by vegetation on the shallower parts of the bank. Sediments range from fine sands containing many shell fragments on top of the bank to muddy sands at greater depths supporting invertebrate communities, characterised by polychaete worms, amphipods and small clams within the sediment, and hermit crabs, flatfish, starfish and brittlestars on the seabed. Sandeels are an important prey resource found at the bank supporting a variety of species including fish, seabirds and cetacean.

Occasional, discrete areas of coarser sediments (including pebbles) were recorded on the bank, dominated by the soft coral Alcyonium digitatum known as dead man's fingers, the bryozoan sea chervil Alcyonidium diaphanum and serpulid worms. The SAC in UK waters adjoins the Dutch and German Dogger Bank SACs. 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: 12,331 km2 – Dogger Bank is approximately five times the size of the Lake District National Park (2,292 km2).

Site depth range: The Dogger Bank ranges in depth from 13 m to 58 m below sea-level.

Charting Progress 2 Biogeographic Region: Southern North Sea.

Site boundary description: The proposed boundary is a simple shape enclosing the minimum area necessary to ensure protection of the sandbank feature. Dogger Bank gradually extends from sandy sediments in less than 20 m, to deeper water with the greatest slope change around the 45–50 m depth contour. To determine this extent in deeper water, JNCC has used information on the biological communities as well as physical information to assess which areas are part of the feature and host its assemblages, and subsequently, the boundary was defined to include the shallow biological communities.   


Monitoring and Evidence

Last updated: October 2023

The full overview of the range of data used to support site identification along with information on confidence in feature presence and extent is available in the Dogger Bank SAC Selection Assessment Document

Some of the data have been collected through JNCC-funded or collaborative surveys. Data from these surveys provide direct evidence confirming the presence of the protected features within the site. 


 Survey and data gathering

  • mNCEA Monitoring Survey (2023) – This survey was carried out as part of the work being undertaken through Defra’s marine Natural Capital and Ecosystem Assessment (mNCEA) programme. The survey collected data from Dogger Bank SAC to improve our understanding of the extent, condition and changes within the site, following fisheries management measures which were implemented in 2022. This work will help us understand how the habitats and species within the Dogger Bank contribute to wider ecosystem services, such as nutrient cycling and carbon storage. The survey blog is available for more information.
  • NCC/CEFAS Monitoring programme survey (2014) A pilot monitoring survey was carried out collaboratively, between JNCC and the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas). The survey gathered 'baseline' data to help inform on the effectiveness of several proposed fishery management areas and to investigate changes in biological communities along a fishing pressure gradient. The survey was intended as a pilot survey to apply the principles of the UK Marine Biodiversity Monitoring R&D (MBMR&D) Programme at the Dogger Bank SAC. The survey report and survey blog are available.
  • JNCC/CEFAS survey of Dogger Bank (2008) – JNCC commissioned this survey to Cefas in order to gather data to support the delineation of a potential site boundary and to characterise the biological communities present.   


Data analysis reports

Analyses of data gathered as part of the surveys listed above, as well as other relevant data analysis products, are available via the following reports:

  • Eggleton, J., Murray, J., McIlwaine, P., Mason, C., Noble-James, T., Hinchen, H., Nelson, M., McBreen, F.,Ware,  S. and Whomersley, P. 2017.  Dogger Bank SCI 2014 Monitoring R&D Survey Report, JNCC/Cefas Partnership Report No. 11. – This report describes the findings of a dedicated survey which was carried out between 17 May and 6 June 2014 on the RV Cefas Endeavour (cruise CEND 10/14) to collect evidence to support the development of monitoring options specifically for the Dogger Bank SAC and, more generally, for other comparable offshore shallow sand and coarse sediment habitats.
  • Diesing, M., Ware, S., Foster-Smith, R., Stewart, H., Long, D., Vanstaen, K., Forster, R. and Morando, A. (2009). Understanding the marine environment – seabed habitat investigations of the Dogger Bank offshore draft SAC. JNCC Report No. 429. – Presents the findings of the JNCC contract 'Understanding the marine environment-seabed habitat investigations of the Dogger Bank offshore draft SAC'. It presents detailed geomorphological and biological information pertaining to the Dogger Bank along with a discussion of the underlying context and justification for the proposed dSAC boundary. The report provided some of the necessary information to enable JNCC to advise Defra as to the eligibility of the Dogger Bank as a SAC.


Additional relevant literature

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:

  • Chapman, P. M. (1992). Pollution status of North Sea sediments - an international integrative study. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 91: 313–322 – This paper describes the pollution status of North Sea sediments based on results of sediment testing designed to test various methods (chemical and biological).The authors concluded that sediments offshore and at Dogger Bank are unpolluted. Lesions in bottom fish in such offshore areas cannot be attributed to sediment pollution in these areas, but they could be due to other factors such as exposure of plankton larvae to sea surface microlayer chemical contamination and toxicity.
  • Diesing, M., Stephens D., and Aldridge, J. (2013). A proposed method for assessing the extent of the seabed significantly affected by demersal fishing in the Greater North Sea. ICES Journal of Marine Science, 70:1085-1096. – Explores how vessel monitoring system (VMS) enables high-resolution and large-scale comparisons of fishing and natural disturbance. The authors found that for more than half the seabed in the English sector of the Greater North Sea, disturbance can be attributable to demersal fishing and exceeds natural disturbance based on data from the years 2006 to 2008. The imbalance between natural and fishing disturbance is greatest in muddy substrates and deep circalittoral habitats.
  • ICES (2011). Report of the International Bottom Trawl Survey Working (IBTSWG). ICES CM 2011/SSGESST:06. pp 237. – Produced by an Expert Group under the auspices of the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), the report compiles data from several cruises undertaken in the North Sea by different countries and research institutes, aiming to collect data on the distribution and relative abundance, and biological information of commercial fish.
  • Kröncke, I. (2011). Changes in Dogger Bank macrofauna communities in the 20th century caused by fishing and climate. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 94: 234–245. – Examines the macrofauna communities on the Dogger Bank from the 1920s, the 1950s and the 1980s to the 2000s and identified five communities with similar in spatial distribution throughout the 20th century but differed in the abundance of dominant species. Both fishing impact and climate change are hypothesised as explaining the changes in the Dogger Bank macrofauna communities.
  • Wieking, G. and Kröncke, I. (2003). Macrofaunnal communities of the Dogger Bank (Central North Sea) in the late 1990: spatial distribution, species composition and trophic structure. Helgoland Marine Research, 57: 34–16. – Describes the macrofauna composition at 28 stations on the Dogger Bank in 1996–1998. The authors found that five communities could be distinguished depending on the influence of different water masses, depth, type of sediment and food availability. The importance of sand lickers in the shallowest parts of the Dogger Bank hints at an important contribution of benthic primary production to the nutritional and energetic needs of the benthic community.


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.

A research and development monitoring survey of the Dogger Bank SAC was conducted in May/June 2014. The aims of the survey were to:

  • Collect data inside and outside of proposed fisheries management measures to establish the first point in a time series to monitor changes in the habitats over time;
  • Collect data over a gradient of surface abrasion to better understand the relationship between surface abrasion and the habitats in the MPA; and
  • Conduct a gear comparison study to compare different grab samplers which have been used to collect macrofaunal and sediment data in the MPA to understand how comparable different datasets are. 

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 our MPA monitoring survey reports webpage.

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


Conservation Advice

Last updated: December 2022

Updated formal conservation advice for this MPA was produced in December 2022.  Further information on the approach used to develop this advice is available on our Conservation Advice webpage 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 December 2022). 

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 the 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.
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 the 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 documents are available on JNCC's Resource Hub.



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