Status: Nature Conservation Marine Protected Area (Nature Conservation MPA)
The Firth of Forth Banks Complex MPA is located in offshore waters to the east of Scotland, and includes the Berwick, Scalp and Montrose Banks, and the Wee Bankie shelf banks and mounds.
Located in offshore waters to the east of Scotland, the Firth of Forth Banks Complex MPA includes the Berwick, Scalp and Montrose Banks, and the Wee Bankie shelf banks and mounds.
Strongly influenced by water currents, the mosaic of different types of sands and gravels create a unique mixture of habitats that overlie the underwater banks and mounds within the MPA and support ocean quahog aggregations. The Wee Bankie includes moraines, formed from underwater glacial ridges deposited during the last Ice Age. The moraines here are scientifically important for their role in improving our understanding of the history of glaciation around Scotland.
More detailed site information can be found within the Summary section.
Map displaying the Firth of Forth Banks 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)
|Ocean quahog aggregations||Low or limited mobility species|
|Offshore subtidal sands and gravels||Habitat|
|Shelf Banks and Mounds||Large scale feature|
|Moraines representative of the Wee Bankie Key Geodiversity Area||Geomorphological|
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 within the Evidence section below.
The diagram below is a summary of the key milestones involved in the selection and designation of Firth of Forth Banks Complex Nature Conservation MPA. More detail can be found within the Relevant Documentation section.
The documents referred to below and any other historical documents relating to Firth of Forth Banks Complex Nature Conservation MPA were produced during the selection and designation process and therefore may be out of date.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 coordinates, 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 accessible within 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.
Owing to local current patterns in the area, the Firth of Forth Banks Complex is considered to be a relatively closed system where localised productivity is enhanced. Diverse and fine-scale current patterns result in a wide-ranging mosaic of different sedimentary habitats throughout the site, which support a range of benthic species, such as the common brittlestar, a species of soft coral known as Dead man's fingers, and hornwrack (a colonial bryozoan). The sand and gravel habitats also support the ocean quahog, which is considered to be Threatened and/or Declining by the OSPAR Commission and is a protected species of the MPA. Two further sites within the Northern North Sea biogeographic region that are also designated for ocean quahog aggregations and their associated habitat are the East of Gannet and Montrose Fields and Norwegian Boundary Sediment Plain MPAs. Together, these three sites contribute to the representativity, and therefore the resilience, of this protected feature in the MPA network.
There is evidence to suggest that two of the shelf bank and mound features within the MPA are of wider functional significance to the overall health and biodiversity of Scotland’s seas. Both Berwick Bank and Wee Bankie support sand and gravel habitats suitable for colonisation by sandeels, a key prey item for top predators in the North Sea food web. As such, the Firth of Forth shelf banks and mounds have been identified as critical for foraging seabirds and grey seals. Furthermore, Berwick Bank is also thought to be a spawning ground for plaice, the larvae of which may be important for repopulating exploited stocks along the east coast of England.
A large proportion of the Wee Bankie moraine formation is located within the Wee Bankie (including Scalp Bank) part of the MPA and is considered to be a key geodiversity area in Scotland’s seas. This formation is a series of prominent (20 m high) submarine glacial ridges, composed of poorly sorted sediments (boulders, gravels, sands and clays), and is considered important in furthering understanding of the last British-Irish Ice Sheet. 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 section.
Site area: 2,130 km2. Firth of Forth Banks Complex is similar in size to Snowdonia National Park (2,176 km2).
Site depth range: The site ranges in depth from approximately 110 m below sea-level to just 30 m below sea-level on top of the shelf banks and mounds.
Charting Progress 2 Biogeographic Region: Northern North Sea.
Site boundary description: The Firth of Forth Banks Complex MPA is a composite site and the boundaries of each of the three areas were determined by the presence and extent of the important features contained within them. The Wee Bankie (inc. Scalp Bank) area boundary has been designed to protect its geomorphological and biological interests, as well as an important seabird and grey seal foraging areas. The Berwick Bank area boundary encompasses the bank feature and areas of known occurrences of adult ocean quahog in the MPA. Finally, Montrose Bank boundary encompasses a high diversity of sand and gravel habitats and an area where juvenile ocean quahog are known to occur.
Last updated: April 2017
There is a range of data that underpin this Nature Conservation MPA. The full overview of the data used to support site identification along with information on confidence in feature presence and extent is available in the Firth of Forth Banks Complex Nature Conservation MPA Data Confidence Assessment. JNCC will be adding relevant survey data for this MPA to its MPA Mapper in due course.
Some of the data for this Nature Conservation MPA has 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
- Firth of Forth Banks Complex Survey (2011) – This JNCC and Marine Scotland collaborative survey was commissioned to collect grab samples and photographic samples to enable the biological communities present at the site to be characterised.
- Marine Scotland Science International Bottom Trawl Survey (IBTS Q3) (2011) – JNCC collaborated with Marine Scotland Science to collect opportunistic video and photographic data on this survey during fish survey downtime.
Data analysis reports
- EUSeaMap – Provides supporting information on the presence and extent of seabed habitats, including protected habitat features from a predictive seabed habitat map of European waters.
- Seabed imagery analysis from three Scottish offshore surveys (Goudge and Morris 2014) – JNCC commissioned a contract to analyse the imagery collected from the opportunistic sampling during the IBTS Q3 survey and two other offshore surveys in Scottish waters.
- Analysis of sea bed imagery from the 2011 survey of the Firth of Forth Banks Complex, the 2011 IBTS Q4 survey and additional deep-water sites from Marine Scotland Science surveys (Allen et al. 2014) – JNCC commissioned a contract to analyse the imagery collected from the 2011 Firth of Forth Banks Complex survey and other offshore surveys in Scottish waters.
- Biotope assignment of grab samples from four surveys undertaken in 2011 across Scotland’s seas (Pearce et al. 2014) – JNCC commissioned a contract to undertake an analysis of grab samples collected during the 2011 Firth of Forth Banks Complex survey, alongside data from three other surveys in Scottish waters. This report provides the evidence base for presence of ocean quahog in the MPA, which is further supported by data supplied by oil and gas operations in the Northern North Sea.
- Mapping habitats and biotopes from acoustic datasets (Sotheran and Crawford-Avis 2014a & Sotheran and Crawford-Avis 2014b) – Data gathered in the 2011 JNCC Firth of Forth Banks Complex survey that had been processed were used to produce seabed habitat maps that cover the majority of the MPA.
- Report on the identification of Key Geodiversity Areas in Scotttish waters (Brooks et al. 2013) – This report helped support information on the presence and extent of important geological/geomorphological areas in Scotland’s seas, which includes The Wee Bankie Key Geodiversity Area.
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 the 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 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 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 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 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 Supplementary Advice on the Conservation Objectives (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 documents 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 Firth of Forth Banks Complex 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 webpage.
- 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 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 and static fishing effort within the MPA. 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 via Marine Scotland’s webpages.
- The Firth of Forth was selected by the Offshore Wind Energy Strategic Environmental Assessment as an area for potential renewable energy developments. Seagreen Wind Energy Ltd, a partnership between SSE (Scottish and Southern Energy plc) and Fluor Limited, was granted permission to develop the Firth of Forth Offshore Wind Zone in 2009.
- The full zone has considerable overlap with the Firth of Forth Banks Complex MPA. The first phase of the zone development was granted consent in October 2014 and consists of two wind farm developments, known as Project Alpha and Project Bravo. These projects will consist of up to 150 turbines with the potential to generate up to 1,050 MW of renewable energy. A further five wind farms are planned to be built within the full zone in the future (Phases 2 and 3), but time-frames for these further phases are unknown at present.
- Licensable activities such as renewable energy developments 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 sites 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 Marine Scotlands's Draft MPA Management Handbook and Marine Scotland's guidance for marine license applications.
- 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 under the Monitoring section in due course.
4. Assessment of progress towards conservation objectives
No long-term condition monitoring data is available to determine whether the MPA is moving towards or has reached its conservation objectives.
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.
Information on monitoring of this MPA will be provided when it becomes available.
- Rippled sand with shell fragments. © JNCC/Marine Scotland Science, 2011.
- Whiting (Merlangius merlangus) on rippled sand with shell fragments. © JNCC/Marine Scotland Science, 2011.
- Hornwrack (Flustra folicea) on rippled sand. © JNCC/Marine Scotland Science, 2011.
- Hermit crabs (Paguridae) on rippled sand with shell fragments. © JNCC/Marine Scotland Science, 2011.
- Swimming crab (Liocarcinus sp.) on Dead man's fingers (Alcyonium digitatum) on gravel and sand. © JNCC/Marine Scotland Science/Cefas/NLB.
- Dead man's fingers (Alcyonium digitatum), brittlestars (Ophiophrix fragilis) and hornwrack (Flustra foliacea) on gravel and pebbles. © JNCC/Marine Scotland Science/Cefas/NLB.
- Rippled sand with shell fragments. © JNCC/Marine Scotland Science/Cefas/NLB.
- Hermit crab (Pagurus prideaux) with cloak anemone (Adamsia palliata) on rippled sand with shell fragments. © JNCC/Marine Scotland Science/Cefas/NLB.
- Sea urchin (Echinus esculentus) and hornwrack (Flustra foliacea) on sandy and silty mixed sediments. © JNCC/Marine Scotland Science/Cefas/NLB.
- Hermit crab (Pagurus prideaux) with cloak anemone (Adamsia palliata) on rippled sand with shell fragments. © JNCC/Marine Scotland Science/Cefas/NLB.
- Brittlestar (Ophiuroidea) on rippled sandy sediment with shell fragments. © JNCC/Marine Scotland Science/Cefas/NLB.
- Common starfish (Asterias rubens) on rippled sand. © JNCC/Marine Scotland Science/Cefas/NLB.