Status: Nature Conservation Marine Protected Area (Nature Conservation MPA)
The North-west Orkney MPA is a shallow area lying to the north and west of the Orkney Isles on the Scottish continental shelf. The North-west Orkney MPA lies across the 12 nm territorial sea limit. Advice on this MPA is therefore jointly delivered with NatureScot.
The North-west Orkney MPA is located to the north and west of the Orkney Isles on the Scottish continental shelf. The North-west Orkney Nature Conservation MPA lies across the 12 nm territorial sea limit. Advice on this MPA is therefore jointly delivered with NatureScot. Newly hatched sandeel larvae from the North-west Orkney MPA are exported by currents to sandeel grounds around Shetland and south of the Moray Firth.
The MPA also affords protection to several geomorphological features, the study of which can help improve our understanding of the relationships between currents and seabed sediments.
More detailed site information can be found in the Summary section below.
Map displaying the North-West Orkney 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)
|Sandbanks, sand wave fields and sediment wave fields representative of the Fair Isle Strait Marine Process Bedforms Key Geodiversity Area.||Geomorphological 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 on this page and in JNCC’s MPA mapper and the evidence underpinning this can be viewed in the Evidence section.
The diagram below is a summary of the key milestones involved in the selection and designation of North-west Orkney. More detail can be found in the Relevant Documentation section below.
The documents referred to below and any other historical documents relating to North-west Orkney were produced during the selection and designation process and therefore may be out of date.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 co-ordinates, and information on Conservation Objectives.
- Business Regulatory Impact Assessment – Assesses the environmental, social and economic costs and benefits of the designation.
- JNCC’s formal conservation advice for this site is available in the Conservation Advice section.
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 and further information gathered since these documents were produced.
The MPA is a shallow area lying to the north and west of the Orkney Isles on the Scottish continental shelf. The area is considered important as an export ground for sandeels – a type of burrowing fish that forms a critical component of many North Sea food webs. The area is characterised by a mixed ground type (areas of rough substrate within the areas of sediment) which make it suitable for sandeel colonisation. This may also account for the patchiness of the larval distribution. The MPA plays an important role in supporting wider populations of sandeels in Scottish waters. Specifically, newly hatched sandeel larvae from this region are exported by currents to sandeel grounds around Shetland and the Moray Firth. This is supported by a time series of data on larval abundance that date back to the 1950s, illustrating the continued importance of this area as an export ground for sandeels. The MPA also includes protection for geomorphological features representative of the Fair Isle Strait Marine Process Bedforms Key Geodiversity Area. These shelf tidal bedform features such as the sediment wave fields, sand wave fields and sandbanks, are active and are maintained under a specific range of tidal current conditions. It is thought that the study of these features can help improve our understanding of the relationships between currents and seabed sediments.
Site location: Co-ordinates for this Nature Conservation MPA can be found in the Designation Order listed in the Relevant Documentation section.
Site area: 4,365 km2, making it roughly twice the size of the Isle of Lewis and Harris in the Outer Hebrides.
Site depth range: 12 m below sea-level to 216 m below sea-level further away from the coast.
Charting Progress 2 Biogeographic Region: Scottish Continental Shelf.
Site boundary: The boundary of the MPA has been drawn to focus on the greatest density of newly emergent sandeel larvae in the region following consideration of newly hatched larval data, predicted larval dispersal modelling and the presence of suitable sediments for sandeel colonisation.
Last updated: February 2017
There are 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 North-west Orkney MPA Data Confidence Assessment. JNCC will be adding relevant survey data for this MPA to its MPA interactive map in due course.
Some of the data for this Natural 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 feature within the site.
Survey and data gathering
- Marine Scotland Science Survey Trawls (1986–1991) – This is a collation of historic trawl surveys completed by Marine Scotland Science recording the occurrence of sandeels across the extent of the MPA. Data from these surveys have been analysed and reported through Wright & Bailey (1996), Procter et al. (1996) and Wright et al. (2000) (see References and additional relevant literature below).
Data analysis reports
- Spatial patterns and trends in abundance of larval Ammodytidae from Continuous Plankton Recorder (CPR) surveys of the North Sea (1950–2005) (2013) – This study (Lynam et al. 2013) analysed data gathered and stored by the Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science (SAHFOS) In the CPR database. The data is gathered from continuous plankton recorders attached to commercial trawlers. This data was used to show the mean abundance of sandeel larvae.
- The influence of sediment type on the distribution of the lesser sandeel Ammodytes marinus (2000) – Particle Size Analysis data from British Geological Survey samples collected in the area between 1973 and 1980 were analysed by Wright et al. (2000) to assess suitability for sandeel colonisation. Seven of nine records from the site were considered suitable for sandeels; these occurred in the south-west and eastern area of the site.
- Modelling the transport of larval sandeels on the north-west European shelf (1998) – Young sandeel transport in the North Sea was predicted by Proctor et al. (1998) using data on sandeel spawning locations, age and hatching time combined with a model of ocean currents over a 39-year period. The study showed that sandeel larvae from North-West Orkney MPA may disperse widely across the North Sea.
- Timing of hatching in Ammodytes marinus from Shetland waters and its significance to early growth and survivorship (1996) – The growth and survival of sandeels was examined using otolith microstructure in this study. The study supports the extensive export of sandeel larvae from the MPA to sandeel grounds around Shetland and south of the Moray Firth.
Additional relevant literature
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 which is of interest in relation to this MPA, they do not necessarily represent the views of JNCC.
- Lynam, C.P., Pitois, S., Halliday, N.C., Van Damme, C., Wright, P.J. and Edwards, M. (2013) Spatial patterns and trends in abundance of larval Ammodytidae from Continuous Plankton Recorder surveys of the North Sea: 1950–2005. ICES Journal of Marine Science, doi:10.1093/icesjms/fst006.
- Proctor, R., Wright, P.J. and Everitt, A. (1998) Modelling the transport of larval sandeels on the north-west European shelf. Fisheries Oceanography, 7 (3–4): 347–354.
- Wright, P.J. and Bailey, M.C. (1996) Timing of hatching in Ammodytes marinus from Shetland waters and its significance to early growth and survivorship. Marine Biology, 126 (1): 143–152.
If you are aware of any additional data or relevant scientific papers for this site not listed in the Relevant Documentation section, including the North-West Orkney MPA Data Confidence Assessment, please contact us.
Last updated: April 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 Conservation Advice webpages 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 April 2018).
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.
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 conserved 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).
|Feature, Activity, Sensitivity Tool (FeAST)||
Provides an initial assessment of whether a proposed plan or project (or ongoing activity) may have an impact on a protected feature within the site.
FeAST identifies pressures associated with the most commonly occurring marine activities, and provides a detailed assessment of feature sensitivity to these pressures. A human activity is considered capable of affecting, other than insignificantly, a feature where the feature is known to be sensitive to associated pressures.
The sensitivity assessments provided in FeAST, should be used at an early stage of a plan or project when considering potential impacts of an activity.
These resources are available on JNCC's Resource Hub.
Activities and Management
Last updated: June 2017
Management status: Considered well managed.
Regular larval surveys took place within this MPA between 1950 and 2005, indicating that persistent numbers of sandeel larvae are exported from this MPA. Given that activities currently taking place are not considered to affect sandeels within this MPA, JNCC considers sandeels to be in favourable condition.
This site forms part of the UKs 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 the North-West Orkney 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 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 feature of the site. The protected feature of the site (sandeels) is not considered to be sensitive to any activities currently taking place within or adjacent to this MPA. A brief justification for each of the major activity types taking place is provided below:
- Several different fisheries currently exist within the MPA but none of these are currently considered likely to affect sandeels (see JNCC's sandeels fisheries management guidance). Furthermore, the MPA overlaps the Sandeel Area 5 and 7 management units, for which a zero Total Allowable Catch (TAC) has been set and so no targeted sandeel fishery can currently take place within the region.
- 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.
- Whilst 'licensable' activities such as oil and gas exploration and production do not take place within North-West Orkney at present, any future proposals that may take place 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 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 feature of this MPA.
- The MPA overlaps with the renewables areas OWN1 and WN2 identified in the Draft Sectoral Marine Plans that formed part of the Planning Scotland's Seas consultation.
- For further information, see Marine Scotland’s draft Draft Draft MPA Management Handbook and Marine Scotland’s guidance for marine license applications.
- Further information on JNCCs role in the provision of advice for licensed activities in the UK offshore area is available on JNCC's offshore industry advice webpages.
- Three telecommunications cables currently cross through the MPA.
- Cables are largely an unregulated activity in offshore waters depending upon the type of cable being laid (or maintained), where it is being laid between and whether the cable is part of a larger development (which may be regulated). Any cable not directly associated with an energy installation does not require a marine license beyond the 12 nautical miles limit.
- JNCC encourages early discussion from operators regarding any plans related to new or existing cables, and encourages the undertaking of non-statutory environmental impact assessments for new or existing cable projects to assess their effect on the protected features of the MPA.
3. Site condition monitoring
Regular larval surveys took place within this MPA between 1950s and 2005, indicating that persistent numbers of sandeel larvae are exported from this MPA. Given that activities currently taking place are not considered to affect sandeels within this MPA, JNCC considers sandeels to be in favourable condition within this MPA.
4. Assessment of progress towards conservation objectives
Evidence from regular larval surveys taking place between the 1950s and 2005 suggests the sandeels as the protected feature of this MPA may already be achieving its conservation objective.
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 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.