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East of Haig Fras MPA

Please be advised that, as of 22 March 2024, new fisheries management measures are in force for East of Haig Fras MCZ. For more information about what these fisheries measures are please see MMO Statutory guidance for the Tranche 2 Marine Protected Areas Bottom Towed Fishing Gear Byelaw 2023.

Status: Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ)

East of Haig Fras MCZ is located approximately 67 km west of Land’s End, in the Celtic Sea. The seabed is heterogeneous, with small patches of habitat blending into each other. 


Situated in the Celtic sea, East of Haig Fras MCZ is approximately 67 km west of Land’s End. The seabed is heterogeneous, with small patches of habitat blending into each other. Ridges composed of a mosaic of coarse and mixed subtidal sediments run through the site. These sediment ridges are topped with rocky features and are separated by mobile sand or mud.

The rocky cobbles and boulders provide habitat for hydroids and bryozoans along with other species, such as sponges, cup corals and squat lobsters. 

The sediments are home to a wide diversity of worm species. Pea urchins, small sea urchins which only reach 1 cm in diameter, are one of the most common species living in the sediments. Juvenile brittlestars and cushion stars have also been recorded.

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

Map displaying the East of Haig Fras MPA boundary and associated protected feature data. Visit JNCC's MPA Mapper to further view and explore data for this MPA.

Map showing East of Haig Fras Marine Protected Area and linking to the MPA mapper


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


Protected Features

Protected Feature

Feature Type

High energy circalittoral rock

Broad-Scale Habitat

Moderate energy circalittoral rock

Broad-Scale Habitat

Subtidal coarse sediment / Subtidal mixed sediments mosaic

Marine Habitat

Subtidal sand

Broad-Scale Habitat

Subtidal mud

Broad-Scale Habitat

Sea-pen and burrowing megafauna communities

Feature of Conservation Importance

Fan mussel (Atrina fragilis)

Feature of Conservation Importance

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 Monitoring and Evidence section.


Site Timeline

The diagram below is a summary of the key milestones involved in the selection and designation of East of Haig Fras MCZ. More detail can be found in the Relevant Documentation section below and in Annex 3 of JNCC's Advice on offshore Marine Conservation Zones considered for consultation in 2015.

September 2011
Regional Projects recommended a total of 127 Marine Conservation Zones (rMCZs) to Defra and the statutory nature conservation bodies (SNCBs).
December 2012 – March 2013
Formal public consultation on Tranche One rMCZs – East of Haig Fras included.
December 2013
Tranche One MCZ designations announced – East of Haig Fras designated.
January 2015 –April 2015
Formal consultation on Tranche Two rMCZs. Additional feature for East of Haig Fras included.
January 2016
Tranche Two MCZ designations announced. An additional feature for East of Haig Fras designated.
May 2019
Tranche Three MCZ designations announced. Three additional features for East of Haig Fras designated.


Relevant Documentation

The documents referred to below, and any other historical documents relating to East of Haig Fras 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 webpages.

  • The latest factsheet, site map and designation order are available on Defra's website.
  • Site Summary Document – Summary of the key attributes of the site including boundaries, maps and descriptive text, produced as part of the site designation consultation package. 
  • 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: October 2017

Reviewed: November 2018

The information for this site summary was adapted from documents listed in the Monitoring and Evidence section.


Site overview

East of Haig Fras MCZ is located approximately 67 km north-west of Land’s End, in the Celtic Sea. The site has an area of around 400 km2 and is situated on a plateau on the UK continental shelf. The seabed in the MCZ is heterogeneous, with small patches of habitat blending into each other. Ridges composed of a mosaic of subtidal coarse and mixed sediments run north-east to south-west through the site. These sediment ridges are topped with rocky features, such as boulders and cobbles. Various sponges, anemones and hydroids have been observed on the coarser sediments and rocky habitats. The sediment ridges are separated by mobile sand or mud, with sandy habitat being more prevalent in the north west of the site. Pea urchins (Echinocyamus pusillus) and brittlestars are some of the most common species living in and on the sediment. East of Haig Fras MCZ is also home to a wide diversity of polychaete worm species. Several molluscs have also been recorded on multiple occasions. Analyses of benthic community data collected during offshore surveys have indicated that there are seven biotopes present within the East of Haig Fras MCZ.

The MCZ currently has seven designated features; the broad-scale habitat features High energy circalittoral rock, Moderate energy circalittoral rock, Subtidal sand, Subtidal mud and a mosaic of Subtidal coarse sediment and Subtidal mixed sediments, the habitat of conservation importance Sea-pen and burrowing megafauna communities and the species of conservation importance Fan mussel (Atrina fragilis). The East of Haig Fras MCZ was included in the Finding Sanctuary Regional MCZ Project recommendations to help meet targets regarding Moderate energy circalittoral rock, Subtidal coarse sediment and Subtidal sand broad-scale habitats. Since the site was first recommended, three dedicated surveys have visited East of Haig Fras MCZ. Surveys have confirmed the presence of the three originally recommended broad-scale habitats. Subtidal mixed sediments and Subtidal mud were also identified during the surveys. The spatial extent of the Subtidal coarse sediment and Subtidal mixed sediments could not be delineated separately, and therefore they have been designated together as a habitat mosaic. Evidence of High energy circalittoral rock were provided by an MB0120 survey in 2013, and in 2015 a JNCC monitoring survey also found evidence of the species feature of conservation interest (FOCI) Fan mussel (Atrina fragilis) and the habitat FOCI Sea-pen and burrowing megafauna communities. these have been designated as additional features within the MCZ. Further detail on the evidence for this MCZ can be found in the Monitoring and Evidence section.

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

Site area: 400 km2, which makes it larger than the Isle of Wight at only 380 km2.

Site depth range: Sea depth at East of Haig Fras MCZ ranges from 50 m to over 100 m, however most of the site is between 80 m and 100 m deep.

Charting Progress 2 Biogeographic Region: Western Channel and Celtic Sea.

Site boundary description: The site is a simple polygon with boundary lines running north to south and east to west in line with the guidance provided by the MCZ project Ecological Network Guidance (ENG). The north of the site overlaps with the Trevose Box seasonal fishing closure. The boundary of the East of Haig Fras MCZ has not changed since it was recommended by the Finding Sanctuary Regional MCZ Project in 2011.


Monitoring and Evidence

Last updated: November 2023

The full overview of the range of data used to support site identification along with information on the confidence in feature presence and extent is available in JNCC's advice on offshore Marine Conservation Zones proposed for designation in 2013, JNCC's advice on offshore MCZs proposed for designation in 2016 and JNCC's advice on offshore MCZs 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 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


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:

  • East of Haig Fras MCZ monitoring survey (2015): Monitoring Report – East of Haig Fras MCZ was surveyed by Cefas and JNCC in 2015, during which ground truth samples were collected to provide a baseline for site monitoring.
  • Mapping of the Haig Fras Site of Community Importance (SCI) (2015) Report – Haig Fras SCI survey by Cefas and JNCC to confirm its extent in relation to the SCI boundary.
  • British Geological Survey Hard Substrate Map – The interpretation of the BGS hard substrate maps was based on a variety of data sourced from within the British Geological Survey and externally. The map provides evidence for the presence of Moderate energy circalittoral rock within East of Haig Fras MCZ.
  • British Geological Survey Seabed Sediments Data Points Map – Particle Size Analysis of historical data was used to identify habitat type and converted to the EUNIS broadscale habitats by JNCC. The data suggest subtidal coarse sediment and subtidal sand both occur within the site.
  • East of Haig Fras rMCZ Post-survey Site Report (updated 2017) – The data from the 2012 and 2013 verification surveys have been analysed by Cefas. The analysis confirmed the presence of moderate energy circalittoral rock, subtidal sand and subtidal coarse sediments and subtidal mixed sediment mosaics. High energy circalittoral rock, mud habitats in deep water and subtidal mud habitat, which are not currently protected features of the site, were also identified.
  • Community analysis of East of Haig Fras MCZ data (2014) – JNCC contracted Seastar Survey Ltd to complete a community analysis of offshore MCZ grab and video data to establish biotopes. The following biotopes were recorded in East of Haig Fras MCZ:
    • CR.HCR.DpSp.(PhaAxi): A4.121 Phakellia ventilabrum (chalice sponge) and axinellid sponges on deep, wave-exposed circalittoral rock
    • SS.SCS.OCS: A5.15 Offshore circalittoral coarse sediment
    • SS.SSa.CFiSa.EpusOborApri / SS.SMx.OMx: A5.251 Echinocyamus pusillus (pea urchin), Ophelia borealis (a bristle worm) and Abra prismatica (a bivalve mollusc) in circalittoral fine sand / A5.45 Offshore circalittoral mixed sediments
    • SS.SSa.OSa: A5.37 Deep circalittoral sand
    • SS.SMu.OMu / SS.SMx.OMx: A5.37 Offshore circalittoral mud / A5.45 Offshore circalittoral mixed sediments
    • SS.SMx.OMx.(PoVen): A5.451 Polychaete-rich deep Venus community in offshore mixed sediments.


Additional relevant literature

References for further supporting scientific literature consulted during the identification of this site can be found in the annexes of our advice. Please be aware that although these sources contain information in relation to this MPA, they do not necessarily represent the views of JNCC.


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 information not referred to in any of the documents listed in the Monitoring and Evidence section or the annexes of the MCZ advice documents, please contact us.


Conservation Advice

Last updated: January 2021

Updated formal conservation advice for this MPA was produced in January 2021. 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 conservation advice and a short video explaining how to use the conservation advice packages. 

You must refer to this advice if you:

  • undertake an MCZ 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 January 2021).

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 restored 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 documents are available on JNCC's Resource Hub.



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