Please be advised that on 1 February 2024, new fishing gear byelaws were announced for Farnes East Marine Conservation Zone. The measures will come into force on 22 March 2024. For more information about the measures, please see MMO Statutory guidance for the Tranche 2 Marine Protected Areas Bottom Towed Fishing Gear Byelaw 2023.
Status: Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ)
Situated in the north-east of England approximately 11 km from the Northumberland coast, Farnes East MCZ is a joint inshore and offshore site.
Farnes East MCZ is a joint inshore and offshore site situated in the north-east of England approximately 11 km from the Northumberland coast. The seabed is predominantly composed of subtidal coarse sediment, subtidal sand and subtidal mixed sediments, with a scattering of small patches of moderate energy circalittoral rock. A glacial trench, which forms the deepest part of the MCZ, contains subtidal mud.
A diversity of species inhabit the sedimentary habitats across the site, including sponges, anemones, segmented worms and the bivalve mollusc ocean quahog. Sea-pens and burrowing species such as Norway lobster make their home within the mud habitat.
More detailed site information can be found in the Summary section below.
Map displaying the Farnes East 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).
|General Management Approach
(to achieve conservation objective)
|Moderate energy circalittoral rock
|Maintain in favourable condition
|Subtidal coarse sediment
|Maintain in favourable condition
|Maintain in favourable condition
|Recover to favourable condition
|Subtidal mixed sediments
|Maintain in favourable condition
|Sea-pen and burrowing megafauna communities
|Habitat Feature of Conservation Importance
|Recover to favourable condition
|Species of Conservation Importance
|Recover to favourable condition
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 in this section and in JNCC’s MPA Mapper and the evidence underpinning this can be viewed in the Monitoring and Evidence section below.
The diagram below is a summary of the key milestones involved in the selection and designation of Farnes East MCZ. More detail can be found in the Relevant Documentation section below.
The documents referred to below and any other historical documents relating to Farnes East 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.
- Farnes East MCZ Designation Order – The official prescription 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.
- JNCC's pre- and post-consultation scientific advice for features proposed for designation in Tranche Two.
- JNCC's formal conservation advice for this site is available in the Conservation Advice section below.
Last updated: October 2017
Farnes East MCZ is situated in the north-east of England, approximately 11 km from the Northumberland coast. The seabed is predominantly composed of various subtidal sediments. The shallower areas of the site, in the west, are dominated by subtidal coarse sediment and subtidal mixed sediments, while the eastern half of the site consists largely of subtidal sand. A section of the Farnes Deep glacial trench occurs within the site boundary. The trench, which is the deepest part of the MCZ, contains subtidal mud.
All the subtidal sediment types found within Farnes East MCZ are listed as protected features. A diversity of species have been recorded inhabiting the sedimentary habitats across the site, including anemones, particularly Edwardsia claparedii and Cerianthus lloydii, segmented worms (e.g. Galathowenia oculata) and sponges. The sedimentary habitats in Farnes East MCZ also support ccean quahog (Arctica islandica); a bivalve mollusc species that is slow growing and can live for over 100 years. Ocean quahog is an OSPAR Threatened and/or Declining species and a species Feature of Conservation Importance listed on the Ecological Network Guidance (ENG). Two species of sea-pen; slender sea-pen (Virgularia mirabilis) and phosphorescent sea-pen (Pennatula phosphorea) have been observed living on the mud habitat. Norway lobster (Nephrops norvegicus) make their home within the deep mud habitat by constructing burrows, mainly emerging in the evening to feed. As a result, as well as being designated for the broad-scale habitat subtidal mud, the habitat feature of conservation importance; sea-pen and burrowing megafauna communities, is also protected in Farnes East MCZ.
When Farnes East MCZ was first recommended by the Net Gain MCZ regional project in 2011, the best available evidence for the site indicated that over half the area consisted of moderate energy circalittoral rock, with the sedimentary habitats covering a much smaller proportion. Two Defra MB0120 surveys have visited the site since then. The evidence collected indicates that the MCZ is predominantly sedimentary, except for small patches of moderate energy circalittoral rock identified through the site. The rock habitat, which is included as a protected feature of Farnes East MCZ, supports species of hydroids, bryozoans and sponges. 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: 945 km2, making it almost double the size of the county Tyne and Wear which covers 538 km2.
Site depth range: The depth at Farnes East MCZ ranges from 30 m to 100 m.
Charting Progress 2 Biogeographic Region: Northern North Sea.
Site Boundary description: A section of the eastern boundary of the site follows the 6 nm line. The site boundary is completed with six additional straight lines in accordance with the Ecological Network Guidance (ENG). The site overlaps with two seasonal fisheries restrictions which prevent the retention of Sprat (Sprattus sprattus) from ICES statistical area 39E8 between 1 January to 31 March and during October each year, and further places restrictions on the retention of Herring (Clupea harengus) between 6 and 12 nautical miles between 25 August and 15 September each year. The boundary of Farnes East MCZ has not changed since the site was recommended by the Net Gain 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 the pre-consultation and post-consultation advice for Tranche Two offshore Marine Conservation Zones proposed for designation in 2016. 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 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
- Farnes East MCZ Monitoring Survey (2018) – A survey jointly run by JNCC and Cefas collected data on the protected features of this site. These data will provide the first evidence in a monitoring time-series for Farnes East MCZ.
- Farnes East MCZ Verification Survey (2014) – A survey jointly run by Cefas and JNCC focussed on gathering ground-truth data on the rock feature and the habitat feature of conservation importance, peat and clay exposures, which was predicted to occur within Farnes East MCZ.
- Farnes East MCZ Verification Survey (2012) – The survey was a collaboration between Cefas and JNCC to collect acoustic and ground-truth data to identify the presence and extent of broad-scale habitats and features of conservation importance within Farnes East MCZ.
Data analysis reports
- 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 Farnes East 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, subtidal sand, subtidal mud and subtidal mixed sediments all occur within the site.
- Community analysis of Farnes East MCZ data (2016) – JNCC contracted Envision Mapping Ltd to complete a community analysis of offshore MCZ grab and video data to establish biotopes. The following biotopes were recorded in Farnes East MCZ:
- SS.SSa.CFiSa.EpusOborApri: Echinocyamus pusillus (pea urchin), Ophelia borealis (a bristle worm) and Abra prismatica (a bivalve mollusc) in circalittoral fine sand
- SS.SMu.CSaMu.ThyNten: Thyasira spp. and Nuculoma tenuis (both bivalve molluscs) in circalittoral sandy mud
- SS.SMx.OMx: Offshore circalittoral mixed sediments
- SS.SCS.OCS: Offshore circalittoral coarse sediment
- SS.SSa.OSa.OfusAfil: Owenia fusiformis (a polychaete worm) and Amphiura filiformis (a species of brittle star) in offshore circalittoral sand or muddy sand
- EUSeaMap – Provides supporting information on the presence and extent of moderate energy circalittoral rock, subtidal coarse sediment and subtidal sand from a predictive seabed habitat map of European waters.
- Farnes East rMCZ Post-survey Site Report (2015) – The data from the 2012 and 2014 site verification surveys have been analysed by Cefas. The results confirm the presence of moderate energy circalittoral rock, subtidal coarse sediment, subtidal sand, subtidal mud, subtidal mixed sediments, sea-pen and burrowing megafauna communities and ocean quahog. No evidence of peat and clay exposures was found during the surveys.
Additional relevant literature
References for further supporting scientific literature consulted during the identification of this site can be found in the annexes of pre-consultation and post-consultation scientific advice for Tranche Two offshore Marine Conservation Zones proposed for designation in 2016. Please be aware that although these sources contain information in relation to this MPA, they do not necessarily represent the views of JNCC.
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.
Last updated: October 2017
Conservation objectives set out the desired state for the protected features of an MPA.
The conservation objectives for the protected features of an MPA are useful if you are:
- Planning measures to conserve the site and its protected features;
- Monitoring the condition of the protected features; or
- Developing, proposing or assessing an activity, plan or project that may affect the protected features of the site.
The Conservation Objectives for the protected features of the MCZ are:
Subject to natural change, the moderate energy circalittoral rock, subtidal coarse sediment, subtidal sand, subtidal mud, subtidal mixed sediments and sea-pen and burrowing megafauna communities features are to remain in or be brought into favourable condition, such that their:
- Extent is stable or increasing; and
- Structures and functions, quality, and the composition of their characteristic biological communities are such as to ensure that they are in a condition which is healthy and not deteriorating.
Subject to natural change, the ocean quahog feature is to remain in or be brought into favourable condition, such that:
- The quality and extent of its habitat is stable or increasing; and
- The population structure allows numbers to be maintained or increased.
More information regarding the conservation objectives for the protected features of the Farnes East MCZ is available in the site Designation Order, In addition to the conservation objectives above, General Management Approaches (GMAs) have been set by JNCC for each feature which provide a view as to whether a feature needs to be maintained in or be brought into favourable condition (i.e. recover), based on our knowledge about its condition. For more information on the General Management Approach for MCZs see Defra’s MCZ Designation Explanatory Note.
The GMAs for the protected features of the MPA are:
- Moderate energy circalittoral rock: Maintain in favourable condition;
- Subtidal coarse sediment: Maintain in favourable condition;
- Subtidal sand: Maintain in favourable condition;
- Subtidal mud: Recover to favourable condition;
- Subtidal mixed sediments: Maintain in favourable condition;
- Sea-pen and burrowing megafauna communities: Recover to favourable condition; and
- Ocean quahog: Recover to favourable condition.
More information on the GMA for the features in Farnes East MCZ is provided in JNCC’s Tranche Two pre-consultation and post-consultation scientific advice to Defra.
Advice on operations
Section 127 of the Marine & Coastal Access Act (2009) states that JNCC may provide advice and guidance regarding matters capable of damaging or otherwise affecting the protected features of an MCZ.
JNCC has published the following advice on activities which are capable of damaging or otherwise affecting protected features in MCZs:
- MCZ Fisheries Advice (joint advice with Natural England);
- MCZ Licensed activities Advice (joint advice with Natural England); &
- Advice on conservation objectives for the protected features in Tranche Two MCZs.
JNCC provides a list of activities occurring within the Farnes East MCZ and information on management in the Activities and Management section. JNCC has provided this to aid the cumulative assessment of impacts of human activities within the site. While every attempt has been made to ensure this information is accurate and kept up-to-date, the list is not to be considered exhaustive or definitive. The list does not, for example, include activities occurring off-site which may also be capable of affecting the protected features.
For the most up-to-date information about the biological communities present within the site and their spatial distribution, please see the Evidence section. Sensitivity information for the protected features within the site can be found in a Technical Report commissioned by Defra to support the MCZ designation process.
The information contained within the Evidence section, the Activities and Management section, the above technical report and the advice listed above on activities which are capable of damaging or otherwise affecting the protected features in MCZs are useful if you are:
- Carrying out any activity that may impact the protected features of the site and need to find out how to operate within the law;
- An authority providing advice on specific proposals; and/or
- An authority responsible for putting management measures in place.
Our scientific understanding of the ecology of the protected features of the site and how activities can affect them may change over time. Similarly the activities taking place within the site may also change over time. JNCC’s conservation advice will be kept under review and will be periodically updated to reflect this. Further information on JNCC's conservation advice is available on our 'Conserving MPAs' webpage.
Activities and Management
Last updated: February 2024
Management status: Progressing towards being well managed.
Progress is ongoing with fisheries management options being developed. Ongoing site condition monitoring 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 Farnes East MCZ 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 in the Conservation Advice section. Further information is available on our 'Conserving MPAs' webpages.
- 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. 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.
- Please note, as of 22 March 2024, new fisheries management measures will be in force for Farnes East MCZ. For more information about these fisheries measures, please visit the MMO Statutory guidance.
- Whilst 'licensable' activities such as oil and gas exploration and production do not take place within Farnes East MCZ at present, any future proposals should be managed in accordance with the clauses set out under Section 127 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, please see The Marine Management Organisation's guidance on marine conservation zones and marine licensing.
- 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
Site condition monitoring surveys are yet to take place within this MPA. Further information will be made available in the Monitoring and Evidence section in due course.
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.
- A siphon of an Ocean quahog (Arctica islandica). © Becky Hitchin.
- Subtidal mixed sediment habitat. Farnes East MCZ. © JNCC/Cefas.
- Subtidal mixed sediment habitat with sea spider on a Dead Man's Finger soft coral (Alcyonium digitatum). Farnes East MCZ. © JNCC/Cefas.
- Hermit crab (Pagurus bernhardus) on subtidal muddy sand. Farnes East MCZ. © JNCC/Cefas.
- Anemones (Anthozoa) and other epifauna on moderate energy circalittoral rock. Farnes East MCZ. © JNCC/Cefas.
- Brittle stars (Ophiothrix) beds on rocky seabed. Farnes East MCZ. © JNCC/Cefas.
- Crab (Cancer pagurus), brittle stars (Ophiothrix) and epifauna on moderate energy circalittoral rock. Farnes East MCZ. © JNCC and Cefas.
- Squat lobster (Munida sp) on rippled sand. Farnes East MCZ. © JNCC/Cefas.
- Norway lobster (Nephrops norvegicus) outside its burrow, along with other burrows and tubes in rippled muddy sediment. Farnes East MCZ. © JNCC/Cefas.
- Phosphorescent sea-pen, tubes and burrows in muddy sediment. Farnes East MCZ. © JNCC/Cefas.
- Common sun star (Crossaster papposus) on rippled coarse sediment. Farnes East MCZ. © JNCC/Cefas.
- Squat lobster (Munida sp) and urchin on coarse sediment. Farnes East MCZ. © JNCC/Cefas.