Skip to Content

Greater Haig Fras MPA

Status: Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ)

Greater Haig Fras MCZ is an offshore site situated to the south-west of England, approximately 120 km west of Land’s End in Cornwall.




Situated to the south west of England, Greater Haig Fras MCZ is an offshore site approximately 120 km west of Land’s End in Cornwall.

The site protects approximately 2,041 km2 of continental shelf seabed that surrounds an isolated fully submarine bedrock outcrop (the Haig Fras rock complex geological feature), the only substantial area of rocky reefs in the Celtic Sea beyond the coastal margin and inshore waters. The seabed surrounding this outcrop has a diverse range of sediment types from mud to coarse and mixed sediments. These habitats are known to support a range of animal species, including those which live within the sediments such as small burrowing worms and bivalve molluscs to urchins, starfish and some crustaceans that live on the sediment surface.

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

Map displaying the Greater 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 Greater 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 Features Type
Subtidal coarse sediment Broad-Scale Habitat
Subtidal sand Broad-Scale Habitat
Subtidal mud Broad-Scale Habitat
Subtidal mixed sediments Broad-Scale Habitat
Sea-pen and burrowing megafauna communities Habitat Feature of Conservation Importance
Haig Fras rock complex Geological Feature

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 at the top of the page and in JNCC's MPA Mapper, with the evidence underpinning available in the Monitoring and Evidence section below.


Site Timeline

The diagram below is a summary of the key milestones involved in the selection and designation of Greater Haig Fras MCZ.  More detail can be found in the Relevant Documentation section below.

September 2011
Regional Projects recommended a total of 127 Marine Conservation Zones (rMCZs) to Defra and the statutory nature conservation bodies (SNCBs).
January 2015 – April 2015
Greater Haig Fras rMCZ included in formal consultation on Tranche Two rMCZs.
January 2016
Tranche Two designations announced – Greater Haig Fras MCZ designated.


Relevant Documentation

The documents referred to below and any other historical documents relating to Greater 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.



Last updated: October 2017

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


Site overview

Greater Haig Fras MCZ is situated approximately 120 km offshore from the south-west of England. It contains the geological feature, the Haig Fras rock complex. This fully submarine granite outcrop, approximately 45 km long and 15 km wide, runs diagonally through the site. The area of continental shelf that surrounds this rock outcrop presents a wide range of sediment types from mud to coarse and mixed sediments.

The subtidal rocky habitat within this site is already protected by Haig Fras SAC, but the broad-scale sedimentary habitats are now offered protection as features of the Greater Haig Fras MCZ. This includes Subtidal coarse sediment, Subtidal sand, Subtidal mud, and Subtidal mixed sediments. The variety of subtidal sediments present here support a range of animals including many species of polychaete worm and bivalve mollusc that live within the sediment, and on the surface of the sediment epifaunal species including echinoderms such as sea urchins and starfish are recorded. In the deeper areas of the site, a particular type of mud habitat known as Sea-pen and burrowing megafauna communities occurs, which is also an OSPAR Threatened and/or Declining habitat across the North-east Atlantic. The burrowing activity of crustaceans such as mud shrimps and the Norway lobster Nephrops norvegicus has an important functional role, allowing oxygen penetration deeper into the sediment, releasing nutrients, and increasing the structural complexity of the habitat. Although characterised by Nephrops and sea-pen, this habitat also supports a rich community of animals living within the sediment.

In addition to the Haig Fras SAC which is completely contained within the boundary of the Greater Haig Fras MCZ, a number of other MPAs are located close by. North-West of Jones Bank MCZ (approximately 9 km south of the southern site boundary) protects the same broad-scale habitats as well as the habitat FOCI Sea-pen and burrowing megafauna communities and thereby contributes to adequacy and replication targets for this region. East of Haig Fras MCZ (approximately 40 km to the east) also protects a range of broad-scale habitats. 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: 2,041 km2. Greater Haig Fras MCZ is similar in size to the county West Sussex (1,991 km2) in the south of England.

Site depth range:  Greater Haig Fras MCZ varies in depth from less than 50 m over the rock outcrop, to 200 m depth over the surrounding seabed.

Charting Progress 2 biogeographic region: Western Channel and Celtic Sea.

Site boundary description: The western boundary of Greater Haig Fras MCZ aligns with the UK Continental Shelf Limit. The remainder of the site has been drawn to encompass the entirety of the geological feature Haig Fras Rock Complex and Haig Fras SAC, with surrounding areas of sediment. The boundary is in accordance with the MCZ Ecological Network Guidance, which advises using a minimum number of simple lines to delineate the site.


Monitoring and Evidence

Last updated: November 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 JNCC's Tranche Two pre-consultation and post-consultation advice to Defra. 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. As this MCZ contains the Haig Fras SAC within its boundary entirely, any data gathered from surveys of the SAC will be relevant to the sedimentary and geological features of the MCZ. For more information see the Haig Fras SAC.


Survey and data gathering

  • JNCC/Cefas Report No. 30: CEND0719 Survey Report: Monitoring Survey of Greater Haig Fras MCZ (2020) – JNCC and the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) completed an offshore seabed monitoring survey of Greater Haig Fras (GHGF) MCZ. The survey was undertaken onboard the Research Vessel (RV) Cefas Endeavour in 2019, to acquire data to support monitoring of the designated features of the MCZ. The aims of this survey were to
    • Collect data to inform assessment of the condition of the feature attributes (extent, distribution, structure and function, and supporting processes) of the designated features (sediment habitats, Sea-pens and burrowing megafauna communities).
    • Provide the first survey point (T0) in a monitoring series, to enable reporting on change in the designated features over time.
  • National Oceanography Centre Southampton, JC124 seabed monitoring (2015) – NOC Southampton carried out seabed monitoring at Greater Haig Fras MCZ as part of the DEFRA funded project "Novel AUV and Glider deployments to inform future MPA and MSFD monitoring strategy in UK shelf waters?". Acoustic data were collected from a location previously surveyed in 2012 using an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) deployed from RRS James Cook (cruise code, JC124). The objective was to test the feasibility of shallow-water high-resolution repeat mapping, and evaluate the amount of 'natural' change shown by the studied seabed habitats and fauna over the three-year period.
  • Marine Institute Nephrops survey (2012–2015) – The Marine Institute collected underwater video survey data at stations in the Greater Haig Fras MCZ, as part of a Nephrops stock assessment survey of the wider 'Labadie, Jones and Cockburn Banks' ICES assessment area (Functional Unit 20-21). Data verifying the presence of the mud habitat 'Sea-pen and burrowing megafauna communities' were recorded.
  • Gardline Geosurvey (2014) – Collected full coverage multibeam bathymetry and backscatter data within the southern area of Greater Haig Fras MCZ. Data were collected from MV Vigilant using a hull mounted EM2040 dual head multibeam echo sounder.
  • JNCC/Cefas Greater Haig Fras rMCZ Survey (MB0120) (2012) – JNCC and Cefas undertook a survey of Greater Haig Fras MCZ to verify the predicted habitats within the site (RV Cefas Endeavour, CEND 10/12). Multibeam bathymetry data were collected to the north of Haig Fras SAC along corridors spaced 5 km apart and opportunistically while transiting between the 53 ground-truth sample stations. Grab samples were collected from all stations, while video and still images were taken at 23 stations.
  • Survey data were also collected within Haig Fras SAC to infill areas of poor survey coverage from the 2011 survey. Full coverage multibeam and backscatter data were obtained from survey blocks not covered in 2011, eight underwater video and 11 additional grab stations were sampled.
  • British Geological Survey Particle Size Analysis (PSA) data – Sediment samples from historical BGS surveys provide information on the presence and extent of the broad-scale habitats: Subtidal coarse sediment, Subtidal sand, Subtidal mud and Subtidal mixed sediments.


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:

  • Greater Haig Fras MCZ community analysis (2016) – JNCC contracted Seastar Survey Ltd to complete a community analysis and identify biotopes from offshore MCZ grab and video data gathered to provide evidence to underpin the MCZ designation. Biotopes were assigned using the Marine Habitat Classification for Britain and Ireland (JNCC 2015) after multivariate analysis of the survey data. The following biotopes were found within Greater Haig Fras MCZ:   
    *MHCBI Biotope

    Broad-Scale Habitat

    SS.SCS.OCS Offshore circalittoral coarse sediment      

    Subtidal coarse sediment

    SS.SSa.OSa Offshore circalittoral sand

    Subtidal sand

    SS.SMu.OMu Offshore circalittoral mud

    Subtidal mud

    SS.SMx.OMx Offshore circalittoral mixed sediment

    Subtidal mixed sediments

    * Marine Habitat Classification for Britain and Ireland (JNCC 2015).


  • EUSeaMap (2016) – Provides supporting information on the presence and extent of Subtidal coarse sediment, Subtidal sand, Subtidal mud and Subtidal mixed sediments from a predictive seabed habitat map of European waters.
  • Marine Institute Nephrops survey reports (2013–2015) – Provide results and analysis from Nephrops stock assessment surveys of areas FU 20–21 in 2006, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015, which sampled within and around the Greater Haig Fras MCZ. Nephrops burrow densities and abundance of sea-pens are presented from underwater video survey.
  • Mapping of the Haig Fras Site of Community Importance (SCI) (2015) – Survey data collected in 2011 and 2012 by JNCC and Cefas were analysed to map the full extent of reefs at Haig Fras cSAC/SCI. Maps depicting the distribution of identified EUNIS habitat types and Annex I reefs are presented.
  • Greater Haig Fras rMCZ post-survey site report (MB0120) (2015) – This report provides an updated map of the presence and estimated extent of habitats within the site. Survey data to support this were collected jointly by Cefas and the JNCC and Gardline Geosurvey personnel at the Greater Haig Fras rMCZ site during July 2012 and March 2014, respectively.
  • Mapping of Geological and Geomorphological Features (MB0102 Task 2A) (2009) – Defra commissioned a contract to collate data from a range of sources and map geological and geomorphological features, including the Haig Fras rock complex.


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 above, in the Relevant Documentation section, or the annexes of the MCZ advice documents, please contact us.


Conservation Advice

Last updated: March 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 '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 March 2018). 



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 resources are available on JNCC's Resource Hub.



Published: .

Back to top