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North East of Farnes Deep MPA

Status: Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ)

The North East of Farnes Deep MCZ is located approximately 55 km offshore from the north Northumberland coast, in the northern North Sea. 


Located approximately 55 km offshore from the north Northumberland Coast, in the northern North Sea, the North East of Farnes Deep MCZ is situated in an area of predominantly sandy sediment, and also includes patches of gravelly sand and mud.

The habitats within the MCZ are relatively stable and support a diverse range of marine flora and fauna such as anemones, worms, molluscs, echinoderms and fish species. Additional features were designated within the North East of Farnes Deep MCZ in January 2016. These include the broad-scale habitats Subtidal mixed sediments and Subtidal mud, and the species Feature of Conservation Importance (FOCI) Ocean quahog (Arctica islandica).

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


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

Map showing North East of Farnes Deep 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
Subtidal coarse sediment Broad-Scale Habitat
Subtidal sand Broad-Scale Habitat
Subtidal mixed sediments Broad-Scale Habitat
Subtidal mud Broad-Scale Habitat
Ocean quahog (Arctica islandica) Species Feature of Conservation

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.


Site Timeline

The diagram below is a summary of the key milestones involved in the selection and designation of the North East of Farnes Deep 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).
December 2012 – March 2013
Formal public consultation on Tranche One rMCZs – North East of Farnes Deep included.
November 2013
Tranche One MCZs designations announced – North East of Farnes Deep designated.
January 2015 – April 2015
Formal public consultation on Tranche Two rMCZs. Additional features for North East of Farnes Deep included.
January 2016
Tranche Two MCZs designations announced. Additional features for North East of Farnes Deep designated.


Relevant Documentation

The documents referred to below and any other historical documents relating to the North East of Farnes Deep 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 Evidence section. Please refer to this section for further details and information sources.


Site overview

The North East of Farnes Deep MCZ includes an area of mixed sediments, predominantly consisting of subtidal sand interspersed with areas of subtidal coarse sediment and gravels.  Subtidal mud is also present; the mixture of sediment types within the MCZ creates a dynamic seabed environment that hosts a diverse ecosystem. The site depth ranges between 50 m to 100 m below chart datum; the deepest section of the site runs parallel to the western boundary and the shallowest section is in the south-east quarter. 

Formerly known as 'Rock Unique', much of the data used to originally identify the site came from maps based on habitat models, primarily UK SeaMap 2010.  However, a survey led by Cefas and JNCC in 2012 designed to verify the presence of the predicted habitats, recorded a somewhat different distribution of habitats present from the modelled maps.  This resulted in some changes to the features found in the site, notably the absence of low energy circalittoral rock resulted in the change of site name to North East of Farnes Deep MCZ.  Further inspection of the modelled data indicates that the rock could be buried by a layer of sediment, explaining its apparent absence from survey data. 

An updated habitat map has been prepared as a result of the 2012 survey, revealing that subtidal mixed sediments occupy almost half of the MCZ, and subtidal sand and subtidal coarse sediment each occupy approximately a quarter of the total site area, with a small area of subtidal mud present in the west of the site.  A total of 410 infaunal and 39 epifaunal species were recorded during the 2012 survey, including the long-lived Ocean quahog (Arctica islandica) which is a species Feature of Conservation Importance (FOCI) listed in the Ecological Network Guidance

During the first tranche of MCZs (2013) two features were designated in North East of Farnes Deep MCZ: A5.1 Subtidal coarse sediment and A5.2 Subtidal sand. Using information obtained from the 2012 survey, JNCC advised Defra on additional features which could be designated within this MCZ. In the second tranche of MCZs (2016) some of the additional features were designated. These included the broad-scale habitats Subtidal mud and Subtidal mixed sediments, as well as the species FOCI Ocean quahog (Arctica islandica).

Data collected from within the MCZ boundary provides a comprehensive overview of the species present.  Several species of sponge were identified on the coarse sediment habitats, as well as hydroids, species of anemones, and different types of polychaete (worms). A range of crustacean species including barnacles (Verruca stroemia), amphipods (Atylidae and Paraphoxus sp), and squat lobsters (Galathea intermedia) were present in relatively large numbers across the extent of the MCZ.  Several species of fish were also observed in video samples taken from across the MCZ, including dragonets (Callionymus lyra), hagfish (Myxine glutinosa) and flatfish.

The North East of Farnes Deep MCZ is included in the MPA network for its contribution to the conservation of broad-scale habitats. Although not designated features of the site, geological/geomorphological features are also present in the form of depositional glacial features and topographic features of the North-East Bank seabed mound or pinnacle. Further detail on the evidence for this MCZ can be found in the Evidence section.

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

Site area: 492 km2.

Site depth range: The site depth ranges between 50 m to 100 m below chart datum; the deepest section of the site runs parallel to the western boundary and the shallowest section is in the south-east quarter.

Charting Progress 2 Biogeographic Region: Northern North Sea.

Site boundary description: The boundary of the North East of Farnes Deep MCZ is a simple rectangle, with the longest boundaries aligned broadly north–south.  The site boundary is the same as that proposed by the Net Gain Project, and includes broad-scale habitats that encompass coarse and sandy sediment ecosystems.



Last updated: June 2021

The full overview of the various data used to support site identification, along with information on confidence in feature presence and extent is available in JNCC's advice on offshore Marine Conservation Zones proposed for designation in 2013, as well as the JNCC pre-consultation and post-consultation scientific advice for Tranche Two offshore Marine Conservation Zones proposed for designation in 2016. JNCC will be adding relevant survey data for this MCZ 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


Data analysis reports

  • Community analysis of North East of Farnes Deep 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 European Nature Information System (EUNIS) biotopes were assigned after multivariate analysis of the 2012 survey data. The Marine Habitat Classification for Britain and Ireland (version 15.03, JNCC 2015) has been provided below in brackets.

EUNIS Level 4 biotopes

A5.15: Deep circalittoral coarse sediment (SS.SCS.OCS)

A5.27: Deep circalittoral sand (SS.SSa.OSa)

A5.44: Circalittoral mixed sediments (SS.SMx.CMx)

A5.45: Deep circalittoral mixed sediments (SS.SMx.OMx)

EUNIS Level 5 biotopes

A5.251: Echinocyamus pusillus, Ophelia borealis and Abra prismatica in circalittoral fine sand (SS.SSa.CFiSa.EpusOberApri)

A5.272: Owenia fusiformis and Amphiura filiformis in deep circalittoral sand or muddy sand (SS.SSa.OSa.OfusAfil)

A5.451: Polychaete-rich deep Venus community in offshore mixed sediments (SS.SMx.OMx.PoVen)

A5.27x: Seapens and burrowing megafauna in fine deep circalittoral sand (SS.SSa.OSa.SpnMac) This is a new biotope identified within this study, it closely resembles SS.SMu.CFiMu.SpnMeg, however, the associated sediment had a more significant sand contribution and was therefore assigned a new biotope for consideration.

  • North East of Farnes Deep rMCZ Post-survey Site Report (2015) – Cefas undertook analysis of the data collected on the 2012 survey of the North East of Farnes East MCZ.  The data, analysed as part of the MB0120 Defra contract, led to the creation of a revised habitat map that has been used to inform the presence of broad-scale habitats and habitat FOCI within the MCZ.
  • North East of Farnes Deep Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) Monitoring Report (2016) – This report provides evidence on the designated features of the site, primarily derived from the first dedicated monitoring survey conducted in 2016, with reference and qualitative comparison to survey data from 2012. The 2016 data will form the first point in a time series, against which change can be monitored through time.


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

If you are aware of any additional information not referred in the Relevant Documentation section listed on the main page 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.

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.


Activities and Management

Last updated: October 2017

Management status: Progressing towards being well managed.

Progress is ongoing with the recommendation of fisheries management proposals and 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:

  1. 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.
  2. The implementation of management measures – management actions considered necessary to achieve the conservation objectives of a site.
  3. Site condition monitoring programmes – collecting the information necessary to determine progress towards a site's conservation objectives.
  4. 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 North East of Farnes Deep 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 under the Conservation Advice section. Further information is available on our 'Conserving MPAs' 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 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, 'licensable' activities and military activities.


  • There is evidence of mobile demersal, static and pelagic effort within the North East of Farnes Deep MCZ. UK and non-UK registered vessels have been active in the area.
  • The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) is the lead authority regarding the implementation of, and compliance with, any measures to managing fishing activity. Further information on progress is available on the Marine Management Organisation's webpages.

Licensable activities

  • The MPA overlaps with 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 in the future within this MPA are 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 industries advice webpages

Military Activity

  • Low-level military activity may take place within the MCZ. The Ministry of Defense (MOD) have incorporated all designated MPAs into their Environmental Protection Guidelines (Maritime) and wider Marine Environmental and Sustainability Assessment Tool. These guidelines are used to manage MOD activity to minimise the associated risks to the environment.


3. Site conditioning monitoring

A site condition monitoring survey took place in 2016 to form the first point in a monitoring time-series which will be used to determine the rate and direction of change over time in the condition of the protected features of the site. Further information will be made available in 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. However, the vulnerability assessment conducted for this site suggests it may be achieving or moving towards its conservation objectives based on limited exposure to activities associated with pressures to which the protected features of the site are considered to be sensitive. 



Last updated: June 2021

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 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.

A monitoring survey of North East of Farnes Deep MCZ was conducted in May 2016. The aim of the survey were to:

  • Provide an overarching description of the benthic environment within the site.
  • Monitor the existing broadscale habitat features.
  • Determine distribution, abundance and biomass of the Ocean Quahog (Arctica islandica).
  • Compare status of ecosystem to previous surveys in 2012

Details of the cruise report and data analysis report will be provided in the Evidence section




Published: .

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