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Rosemary Bank Seamount MPA

Updated Conservation Advice for the Rosemary Bank Seamount MPA was produced in March 2018 and is available in the Conservation Advice section below.

Status: Nature Conservation Marine Protected Area (Nature Conservation MPA)

The Rosemary Bank Seamount Nature Conservation MPA is located in the deep waters off western Scotland, north-east of the Rockall Trough.




Located in the deep waters off western Scotland, north-east of the Rockall Trough, the Rosemary Bank Seamount Nature Conservation MPA is an extinct volcano, which towers over 1,000 m above the seafloor and is one of only three seamounts present in Scotland’s seas.

The Rosemary Bank Seamount is a hotspot for marine life and significant to the health of Scotland’s seas because of the way it influences underwater currents that bring valuable nutrients to the region. The seamount provides a hard surface on which marine life abounds, including deep-sea sponge aggregations and seamount communities. Recent studies estimate around 88 million sponges may be present in the area and this diverse community composition is largely in pristine condition.


Legislation behind the designation: Marine and Coastal Access Act (2009)


Protected features

Features Feature Type
Deep-sea sponge aggregations Habitat feature
Seamount communities Habitat feature
Seamount Large scale feature
A range of features representative of the Rosemary Bank Seamount (and adjacent sea floor) Key Geodiversity Area, including iceberg ploughmark fields, slide scars, sediment drifts, sediment wave fields and the seamount scour moat Geological and geomorphological features

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 section 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 Rosemary Bank Seamount Nature Conservation MPA. More detail can be found in the Relevant Documentation section.



Relevant Documentation

The documents referred to below and any other historical documents relating to the Rosemary Bank Seamount Nature Conservation MPA were produced during the selection and designation process and therefore may be out of date.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.

These resources are available on JNCC's Resource Hub



Last updated: October 2017

Information for this site summary was adapted from the Rosemary Bank Seamount MPA Site Summary Document and incorporates any further information gathered since this document was produced. Please refer to this document in the Relevant Documentation section for further details and information sources. 


Site overview

The Rosemary Bank Seamount MPA is located in the deep waters off western Scotland, north-east of the Rockall Trough. An extinct volcano, the Rosemary Bank Seamount towers over 1,000 m above the seafloor and is one of only three seamounts present in Scotland’s seas. 

Rising up from the surrounding seabed, the seamount provides a hard surface on which marine life abounds. The size and shape of the seamount influences underwater currents, which bring a plentiful supply of food to the area. These conditions support rich seamount communities, and survey data suggest four types of seamount communities (reef framework-forming colonial scleractinian corals, soft coral species, deep-water sponges and seamount-associated sediments) are present to varying degrees. Reef framework-forming corals Lophelia pertusa and Madrepora oculata occur on Rosemary Bank Seamount and are a significant component of the seamount communities present. Deep-sea sponge aggregations are also a feature of the MPA, and comprise of low-lying massive and encrusting fields of yellow, blue, grey and white sponges. Recent studies (McIntyre et al. 2016) estimated around 88 million sponges were present in the area. The community composition at Rosemary Bank Seamount appears to be more diverse than other regions and was found to be largely in pristine condition. All of these species can take several decades to reach full size. Seamount communities, deep-sea sponge aggregations and Lophelia pertusa reefs are all considered to be Threatened and/or Declining across the north-east Atlantic by the OSPAR Commission.

The Rosemary Bank Seamount is thought to help support the health and biodiversity of Scotland’s seas. The physical topography of the seamount affects local currents, and thereby affects the transport of salt and heat across the wider north Atlantic. The high productivity associated with the seamount attracts rich fish communities such as blue whiting (Micromesistius poutassou) and blue ling (Molva dypterygia) that use the seamount for foraging, breeding and spawning. The aggregations of blue whiting may be linked to the occurrence of large schools of marine mammals in the area. For the cetaceans found in the vicinity of Scottish seamounts, the migration route through the Rockall Trough through the Faroe-Shetland Channel is considered important.

The MPA also includes several different scientifically important seabed features, including iceberg ploughmarks. The seamount scour moat which encircles the seamount forms a trough in places of over 300 m deep. The boundary of the MPA was defined by the extent of geodiversity features representative of the Rosemary Bank seamount and adjacent seafloor, encompassing the entirety of the seamount as a large-scale feature. Further detail on the evidence for this Nature Conservation MPA can be found on 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: 6,927 km2

Site depth range: The shallowest area within the MPA is approximately 400 m below sea-level on the crest of the seamount. In contrast, the deepest section of the MPA is 2,270 m below sea-level in the scour moat around the seamount.

Charting Progress 2 Biogeographic Region: Atlantic North-West Approaches, Rockall Trough and Faroe-Shetland Channel.

Site boundary description: The MPA boundary has been drawn to encompass the known distribution of all deep-sea sponge aggregations and seamount community records, as well as the full extent of the Rosemary Bank Seamount, and the geodiversity features representative of the Rosemary Bank Seamount Key Geodiversity Area. 



Last updated: February 2017

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 the Rosemary Bank Seamount Nature Conservation 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 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

  • Deep Links Project (2016) – A collaborative project between Plymouth University's Deep Sea CRU and University of Oxford, in partnership with JNCC and British Geological Survey, funded by NERC. During May and June 2016 the team undertook a 6 week research cruise in the north-east Atlantic, including Rosemary Bank Seamount, on board the RRS James Cook, collecting data. This project aims to investigate the theory that populations at bathyal depths are more isolated because the currents that transport larvae decrease with depth.
  • Scotia-Marine Scotland Science Deep-water surveys (2007/2012) – Marine Scotland Science survey data support the presence of deep-sea sponge aggregations in the Nature Conservation MPA.
  • FRVMV Franklin Strategic Environmental Assessment/Special Area of Conservation survey (2006) – A collaborative survey was undertaken by the Department for Trade and Industry and Defra (with staff participating from JNCC) as part of the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) process, This survey data supports the presence of seamount communities and deep-sea sponge aggregations on the Rosemary Bank Seamount.
  • RRS James Clark Ross survey (2003) – The British Antarctic Survey – Natural Environment Research Council commissioned survey on the James Clark Ross was undertaken at Rosemary Bank Seamount delivering multibeam data that has helped to define the extent of the seamount.
  • MB102 Data Collation Contract – This Defra-led contract collated earlier records of hard corals on Rosemary Bank Seamount as part of the seamount communities protected feature from 1979 and 1987.


Data analysis reports


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 which is applicable to this MPA, they do not necessarily represent the views of JNCC:

  • McIntyre, F.D., Drewery, J., Eerkes-Medrano, D. and Neat, F.C. (2016). Distribution and diversity of deep-sea sponge grounds on the Rosemary Bank Seamount, NE Atlantic. Marine Biology, 163: 143.


Knowledge gaps

If you are aware of any additional data or relevant scientific papers for this site not listed in the relevant documentation, including the Rosemary Bank Seamount MPA Data Confidence Assessment, 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 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 March 2018). 

Document Overview
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 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).

  • 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.
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 in the site.

FeAST identifies pressures associated with the most commonly occurring marine activities, and provides detailed assessment of feature sensitivity to these pressures. A human activity is considered capable of affecting 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: May 2017

Management status: Progressing towards being well managed

Progress is ongoing with the recommendation of fisheries management proposals to the European Commission 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' by 2020.

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 Rosemary Bank Seamount Nature Conservation MPA around each of these four stages in the MPA management cycle:


1. The documents 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 features of the site. The protected features of the site are considered to be sensitive to pressures associated with fishing activity.


  • Prior to 2016 there is evidence of mobile demersal, static and pelagic effort within the MPA, and 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.
  • In compliance with Article 8 of the deep-sea Regulation (EU) 2016/2336, a ban on the use of all bottom-contacting mobile gear has been introduced below 800 m depth across all European waters. This applies across the area of Rosemary Bank Seamount MPA where the depth falls below 800 m. Article 9 of this same regulation also sets out rules for fishing between 400 m and 800 m where Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems (VMEs) are present, or are likely to occur. These rules aim to minimise the impact of fishing activities on VMEs.
  • Fishing with bottom-set gillnets, entangling nets and trammel nets below 600 m is also prohibited for the protection of deepwater shark species under Council Regulation (EC) 2019/1241, and there are additional restrictions on their use between 200 m and 600 m. This regulation also applies to those areas beyond Union waters, but within the North-East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC) technical measures regulatory area.

Licensable activities

  • Whilst 'licensable' activities such as oil and gas exploration and production do not take place within Rosemary Bank Seamount Nature Conservation MPA at present, any future proposals would have to comply with Section 127 of the Marine and Coastal Access Act.
  • Our conservation advice supports the consents process by setting out the conservation objectives for the protected feature of this MPA and advice on activities that may result in pressures to which the protected feature is considered sensitive.
  • 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

Fishing vessel monitoring is currently in place. Site condition monitoring surveys are yet to take place within this MPA. 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. Further information will be provided under the Assessment section as it becomes available.



Last updated: October 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.

Information on monitoring of this MPA will be provided when it becomes available.



Last updated: October 2017

Assessments of the condition of designated features in offshore MPAs are required to report against our legal obligations. Ideally these assessments should be based on observed data, and then measured against targets for pre-defined indicators. However, for MPAs in offshore waters we do not always have the appropriate information to be able to do so. This is particularly true for seabed habitats, which are the main type of feature designated for protection in offshore MPAs. 

To address these challenges, JNCC has been an active partner in the development of new approaches and tools for the assessment of habitats and species for a variety of national and international status reports.


Conservation Assessment Reports

Under Section 124 of the UK Marine & Coastal Access Act (2009), JNCC is required to report to Ministers every six years on the degree to which the conservation objectives of the protected features of the site have been achieved. Every six years from 2012, the Marine Act requires a report setting out how NCMPAs have performed against their conservation objectives, as well as the effectiveness of the network as a whole. Marine Scotland has published a report setting out progress being made in implementing a Marine Protected Area network that supports the Government’s vision of clean, healthy, safe, productive, biologically diverse marine and coastal environment, managed to meet the long-term needs of nature and people.

Outputs of assessments that feed into Marine Act reporting will also feed into reporting under other obligations.


UK State of the Seas Reports & UK Marine Strategy Part 1

Charting Progress 2 (CP2) published in 2010, is a comprehensive report on the state of the UK seas. It was published by the UK Marine Monitoring and Assessment Strategy (UKMMAS) community which has over 40 member organisations. The report was based on a robust, peer-reviewed evidence base and describes progress made since the publication of Charting Progress in 2005. It provides key findings from UK marine research and monitoring for use by policy makers and others, as we move towards the UK vision of clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse oceans and seas. The results from CP2 were incorporated into the UK Marine Strategy Part 1: UK Initial Assessment and Good Environmental Status published in 2012 under the UK Marine Strategy Regulations (2010). The UK Marine Strategy Part 1 (2012) also set out the UK’s definition for Good Environmental Status, which could be achieved by meeting a series of environmental targets. JNCC worked with other organisations in the UKMMAS community to develop a series of indicators that were used to assess progress against each of the targets and to report on progress made since 2012. The results of these assessments have been published in the UK Marine Strategy Part 1: UK Updated Assessment and Good Environmental Status in 2019. Detailed evidence used to make these assessments is available via the Marine Online Assessment Tool (MOAT). It also sets out proposals for updated high-level objectives, targets and operational targets to be used for 2018 to 2024, which build on those set in 2012.

It is worth noting the two other parts of the UK Marine Strategy: UK Marine Strategy Part Two: marine monitoring programmes, published in 2014 and UK Marine Strategy Part Three: programme of measures published in 2015. Updates to these will be made in 2020 and 2021 respectively.


OSPAR Quality Status Reports

Many of the assessments in the updated UK Marine Strategy Part 1 2019 were developed and produced in collaboration with other contracting Parties of the OSPAR Convention for the Protection of the North East Atlantic. In 2017 OSPAR Published its Intermediate Assessment (IA2017). The IA 2017 further develops OSPAR’s understanding of the marine environment of the North-East Atlantic and its current status. It demonstrates OSPAR’s progress towards realising its vision of a clean, healthy and biologically diverse North-East Atlantic, used sustainably. IA2017 follows on from OSPAR’s previous holistic assessment, the OSPAR Quality Status Report in 2010 (QSR2010) and in 2000 (QSR2000).


JNCC continues to develop and pilot tools for the assessment of marine habitats and species in offshore waters to improve the quality and transparency of our offshore MPA assessments, and contribute to the monitoring of marine biodiversity in UK waters. These tools cover methods for producing interim assessments of site features and their responses to pressures, as well as developing more robust indicators for determining condition of the features.



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