|Updated conservation advice for the East of Gannet and Montrose Fields Nature Conservation MPA was produced in February 2018 and is available in the Conservation Advice section below.|
Status: Nature Conservation Marine Protected Area (Nature Conservation MPA)
Located to the east of Scotland, the East of Gannet and Montrose Fields MPA lies within a relatively shallow sediment plain.
The East of Gannet and Montrose Fields MPA lies to the east of Scotland within a relatively shallow sediment plain.
The majority of the seabed within the MPA is dominated by sands and gravels, which are the preferred habitat of the ocean quahog (Arctica islandica). These animals can live for more than 400 years and are one of the longest living creatures on Earth. The MPA also includes a band of offshore deep sea mud. Many types of worm and mollusc live buried in the mud and provide an important food source for fish.
More detailed site information can be found in the Summary section.
Map displaying the East of Gannet and Montrose Fields MPA boundary and associated protected feature data. Visit JNCC's MPA Mapper to further view and explore data for this MPA.
Legislation behind the designation: Marine and Coastal Access Act (2009)
|Offshore deep sea muds||Habitat|
|Ocean quahog aggregations (including sands and gravels as their supporting habitat)||Low or limited mobility species|
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 on this page and in JNCC's MPA mapper and the evidence underpinning this can be viewed in the Evidence section below.
The diagram below is a summary of the key milestones involved in the selection and designation of East of Gannet and Montrose Fields Nature Conservation MPA. More detail can be found in the Relevant Documentation section below.
The documents referred to below and any other historical documents relating to East of Gannet and Montrose Fields Nature Conservation MPA were produced during the selection and designation process and therefore may be out of date.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.
- Site Summary Document – Overview of the site and the protected features.
- Data Confidence Assessment – Sets out our confidence in the presence and extent of the protected features.
- Assessment against MPA Selection Guidelines – Details the application of the five stages of the Scottish MPA Selection Guidelines.
- Management Options Paper – Considers the management options for achieving the conservation objectives for each of the protected features in the MPA;
- Designation Order – Scottish Ministerial Order for the designation, including MPA boundary co-ordinates, and information on conservation Objectives;
- Business Regulatory Impact Assessment – An assessment of the environmental, social and economic costs and benefits of the designation;
- JNCC's formal conservation advice for this site is available in the Conservation Advice section below.
These resources are available on JNCC's Resource Hub.
Last updated: June 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.
The East of Gannet and Montrose Fields MPA lies within a relatively shallow sediment plain comprised mainly of sand and gravel habitats that support a range of benthic species. One such species is the ocean quahog (Arctica islandica), which is considered Threatened and/or Declining across the North-east Atlantic by the OSPAR Commission. This species of clam is typically found beneath the surface of sandy sediments, in water depths from 4 m to over 400 m. Ocean quahog filter food from passing currents and use their shovel-like 'foot' to bury into the sediment. Ocean quahog are an important food source for several species of fish, including cod, and can live buried deep in the sand for long periods of time without food or oxygen to escape predators. They can live for more than 400 years and are one of the longest living creatures on Earth. The Norwegian Boundary Sediment Plain Nature Conservation MPA and Firth of Forth Banks Complex Nature Conservation MPA are also located within the Northern North Sea biogeographic region and designated for ocean quahog aggregations, increasing the replication and, therefore, the resilience of this protected feature in the MPA network.
The MPA also protects the full extent of an area of offshore deep-sea mud. By protecting the full extent of the deep-sea mud in this area, the MPA protects a coherent, rather than fragmented, example of this habitat. This is one of the few examples of Atlantic-influenced offshore deep sea mud habitats on the continental shelf in the region. Furthermore, East of Gannet and Montrose Fields Nature Conservation MPA is the only MPA designated in the northern North Sea region for the protection of offshore deep sea muds. The deep sea muds occur in a 2–7 km wide band from the south-east to the north-west of the MPA, approximately 100 m deep. There is limited evidence of the composition and diversity of the biological communities present in this habitat, but it is thought to be colonised by animals such as sea spiders, sea cucumbers and sea urchins, which may form diverse communities on the surface of the sediment. 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.
Site area: 1,839 km2 . The East of Gannet and Montrose Fields Nature Conservation MPA protects an area similar in size to the Scottish county of Caithness (1,844 km2).
Site depth range: The site ranges in depth between 80 m below sea-level and 100 m below sea-level.
Site boundary description: The MPA boundary reflects the entirety of the predicted extent of a patch of offshore deep-sea muds which has been verified by existing British Geological Survey (BGS) and Marine Scotland Science survey data along the southern and western boundary, and seabed habitats considered appropriate to harbour ocean quahog aggregations.
Last updated: June 2017
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 East of Gannet and Montrose Fields Nature Conservation MPA Data Confidence Assessment. JNCC will be adding relevant data for this MPA to its interactive MPA mapper when they become available. Some of the data for this MPA have been collected through a JNCC-funded survey. Data from this survey will provide evidence to confirm the presence of the protected features within the site.
Survey and data gathering
- East of Gannet and Montrose Fields and Norwegian Boundary Sediment Plain seabed monitoring survey (2015) – This survey was a collaboration between JNCC and Marine Scotland Science. Video, grabs and camera imagery were collected to form the first point in a monitoring time-series, allowing JNCC to monitor the rate and direction of long-term change in ocean quahog aggregations and offshore deep sea mud communities.
- Further evidence that supports our understanding of sediment type in the site has been derived from Particle Size Analysis data that have been sourced from partner organisations, including the British Geological Survey. Operators connected to the oil and gas industry in the Northern North Sea have provided data that support the presence of ocean quahog aggregations and offshore deep sea muds within the MPA boundary.
Data analysis reports
- East of Gannet and Montrose Fields Monitoring Report 2015 (2020) – McCabe, C., McBreen, F. & O’Connor, J. 2020. East of Gannet and Montrose Fields MPA Monitoring Report 2015. JNCC/MSS Partnership Report No. 1, JNCC, Peterborough, ISSN 2634-2081.
- Cruise Report from the East of Gannet and Montrose Fields and Norwegian Boundary Sediment Plain monitoring survey (2016) – This report details the preliminary field observations of the seabed monitoring survey of East of Gannet and Montrose Fields Nature Conservation MPA and Norwegian Boundary Sediment Plain Nature Conservation MPA conducted by JNCC and Marine Scotland Science. These observations have not been quality assured and so have not been used to support the presence and extent of ocean quahog aggregations and offshore deep-sea mud.
- EUSeaMap – Provides supporting information on the presence and extent of offshore subtidal sands and gravels from a predictive seabed habitat map of European waters.
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 in relation to this MPA, they do not necessarily represent the views of JNCC.
Last updated: February 2018
Updated formal conservation advice is now available for this MPA. Further information on the approach used to develop this advice is available on our Conservation Advice webpages 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 to be learned from customers who have used the advice, to ensure the conservation advice remains 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 February 2018).
|Background Information||Explains the purpose of the advice and when it must be referred to.|
The conservation objectives set out the broad ecological aims for the site. JNCC provides supplementary advice in the Supplementary Advice on the Conservation Objectives (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 SACO.
|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: April 2017
Management status: Progressing towards being well managed.
Progress is ongoing with fisheries management options being developed. Ongoing 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.
JNCC considers well-managed to mean the timely progress of an MPA around the 'MPA management cycle'. This involves:
- 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.
- The implementation of management measures – management actions considered necessary to achieve the conservation objectives of a site.
- Site condition monitoring programmes – collecting the information necessary to determine progress towards a site's conservation objectives.
- 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 East of Gannet and Montrose Fields 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 Conservation Advice webpages.
- Spatial information on the presence and extent of the protected features of this MPA is available via JNCC's MPA mapper.
- JNCC is in the process of developing downloadable MPA data packages with appropriate permissions to share datasets 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.
- There is evidence of mobile demersal fishing and some pelagic fishing 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 on Marine Scotland’s web pages.
- A considerable number of oil and gas development are currently within the MPA, and the MPA overlaps with a number of license blocks identified by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (formally the Department of Energy and Climate Change) and so may be subject to further oil and gas 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 126 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 Draft MPA 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
A monitoring survey of the MPA took place in 2015. Data were collected to form the first point in a monitoring time-series, allowing for the assessment of the rate and direction of long-term change in ocean quahog aggregations and offshore deep-sea mud habitat. Further information is provided in the Monitoring section and the survey cruise report (O’Connor 2016).
4. Assessment of progress towards conservation objectives
No long-term condition monitoring data are 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.
Last updated: February 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 be used with the 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.
Last updated: February 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 the 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.
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.
- Sea anemone (Arachnanthus sarsi) and Phosphorescent sea-pens (Pennatula phosphorea) on offshore subtidal sands and gravels. ©JNCC/Marine Scotland Science.
- Sea urchins (Echinodea) on offshore deep-sea muds. ©JNCC/Marine Scotland Science.
- Phosphorescent sea-pens (Pennatula phosphorea) and hag fish (Myxini) on offshore subtidal sands and gravels. ©JNCC/Marine Scotland Science.
- Norway lobster (Nephrops norvegicus) burrow in offshore subtidal sands and gravels. ©JNCC/Marine Scotland Science.
- Ocean quahog (Arctica islandica), phosporescent sea-pen (Pennatula phosphorea) and gurnard (Triglidae) on offshore subtidal sands and gravels. ©JNCC/Marine Scotland Science.
- Large sea snails (Buccinidae ssp.) on subtidal sand and gravel. ©JNCC/Marine Scotland Science.