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South Rigg MPA

Status: Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ)

The site is located in the west of the Irish Sea region, approximately 23 km west of the Isle of Man. The seabed is predominately mud and sand with areas of coarse and mixed sediments, as well as rocky habitats.


South Rigg MCZ is an offshore site that covers an area of 143 km2. The site is located in the west of the Irish Sea region, approximately 23 km west of the Isle of Man. Depths within the site range between 50 m and 150 m.

The site protects a range of habitats (from fine sediments to rocky habitats) which in turn supports a wide variety of species. The mud within the site is characterised by mounds and burrows formed by the burrowing activities of certain species such as mud shrimp (Callianassa subterranea) and Norway lobsters (Nephrops norvegicus). These burrows can provide shelter for a range of other animals. The subtidal sediments in the site provide a home for a variety of species such as anemones, starfish and urchins. The rock habitat supports a variety of species such as sponges, anemones, squat lobster (Munida rugosa) and soft corals. 

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

Map displaying the South Rigg MPA boundary and associated protected feature data. Visit JNCC's MPA Mapper to further view and explore data for this MPA.

Map showing South Rigg 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
Moderate energy circalittoral rock Broad-scale habitat
Subtidal coarse sediment

Broad-scale habitat

Subtidal sand

Broad-scale habitat

Subtidal mud

Broad-scale habitat

Subtidal mixed sediment

Broad-scale habitat

Sea-pen and burrowing megafauna communities

Feature of Conservation Importance

Specific information on the conservation objectives related 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 Monitoring and Evidence section.


Site Timeline

The diagram below is a summary of the key milestones involved in the selection and designation of the South Rigg MCZ. More detail can be found within the Relevant Documentation section and in the post-consultation advice.

September 2011
Regional Projects recommended a total of 127 rMCZs to Defra and the statutory nature conservation bodies (SNCBs).
June 2018 – July 2018
South Rigg rMCZ included in formal public consultation on Tranche Three rMCZs.
May 2019
Tranche Three designations announced – South Rigg MCZ designated.


Relevant Documentation

The documents referred to below and any other historical documents relating to South Rigg 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 webpage.

  • South Rigg MCZ Designation Order – the official description of the site designation under the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009. The Designation Order includes boundary co-ordinates, Conservation Objectives and a list of the designated features. More information on the Designation Order, including a designation map and factsheet is available on Defra's website.
  • JNCC's pre- and post-consultation scientific advice for features proposed for designation in 2019.
  • JNCC's formal conservation advice for this site is available in the Conservation Advice section.



Last updated: July 2020

Information for this site summary was adapted from JNCC’s scientific advice to Defra on South Rigg MCZ and incorporates any further information gathered since this advice was produced. Please refer to the Relevant Documentation section for further details and information sources.


Site overview

South Rigg MCZ is an offshore site that covers an area of 143 km2. The site is located in the west of the Irish Sea Charting Progress Two regional sea area, approximately 23 km west of the Isle of Man. It contains a variety of subtidal sediments and an area of rock habitat. The site depth ranges from 50 m to 150 m. South Rigg was originally recommended by the Irish Sea Conservation regional MCZ project in 2011. Additional information was gathered from surveys and habitat maps before the site was initially advised on in 2014. 

South Rigg MCZ includes a variety of habitats from finer sediments to rocky habitats and supports a wide range of species. Subtidal sediment provides a home for species such as bristle worms, anemones, starfish, irchins, burrowing anemones, clams and cockles. The rocky habitats within the site support species such as sponges, anemones, squat lobster (Munida rugosa), brittle star species and a soft coral known as dead man's fingers (Alcyonium digitatum). The mud within the site is characterised by mounds and burrows formed by burrowing species such as mud shrimp (Callianassa subterranea) and Norway lobster (Nephrops norvegicus).

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: 143 km2.

Site depth range: 50–150 m.

Charting Progress 2 Biogeographic Region: Irish Sea.

Site boundary description: The site boundary is delineated predominantly by the territorial seas' limits of the Isle of Man, Scotland and Northern Ireland, where these intersect in the western Irish Sea.

The boundary of the South Rigg MCZ has not changed since it was recommended by the Irish Seas Regional MCZ Project in 2011.


Monitoring and Evidence

Last updated: November 2023

Site-specific data

There are a range of data that underpin this MCZ. The full overview of these data used to support site identification along with information on confidence in feature presence and extent is available in JNCC’s Tranche Three MCZ pre-consultation and post-consultation scientific advice for offshore Marine Conservation Zones proposed for designation in 2019. 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.


Survey and data gathering

  • Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) site survey of South Rigg MCZ (2012) – Acoustic MBES data and groundtruthing grab samples were collected aboard RV Corystes during the dedicated site survey undertaken by AFBI in February 2012.


Data analysis reports

  • South Rigg rMCZ Post-survey Site Report (2016) – Cefas undertook analysis of acoustic data and grab samples collected by the dedicated AFBI site survey. These data were used to produce an updated habitat map for the site and inform the presence of broadscale habitats and habitat FOCI and allow estimates to be made of their spatial extent within the site.


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 in the Relevant Documentation section or above, please contact us.


Conservation Advice

Last updated: January 2021

Updated formal conservation advice for this MPA was produced in January 2021. Further information on JNCC’s approach used to develop conservation advice packages 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 January 2021).  

Documents 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 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 documents are available on JNCC's Resource Hub.




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