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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

EUNIS Code: Protected Feature Feature Type
A4.2: Moderate energy circalittoral rock Broad-scale habitat
A5.1: Subtidal coarse sediment

Broad-scale habitat

A5.2: Subtidal sand

Broad-scale habitat

A5.3: Subtidal mud

Broad-scale habitat

A5.4: 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 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 CNCBs.
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 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.



Last updated: July 2020

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.


Conservation Advice

Last updated: July 2020

The overarching conservation objectives for the site is for its designated feature either to remain in or reach favourable condition. The ability of a designated feature to remain in or reach favourable condition can be affected by its sensitivity to pressures associated with activities taking place within or in close proximity to a protected site.

Formal conservation advice is not currently available for this MPA and will be added in due course.

In the interim, please see JNCC’s Tranche 3 MCZ post-consultation advice for more detail.

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.


Activities and Management

Last updated:July 2020

Management status: To be assessed.

Information on the management for the site can be found in the South Rigg MCZ Factsheet

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.



Last updated: July 2020

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: July 2020

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 Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) have been achieved. Every six years from 2012, the Marine Act requires a report setting out how MCZs have performed against their conservation objectives, as well as the effectiveness of the network as a whole.

To date, three reports have been published, each setting out progress being made in implementing a Marine Protected Area network, covering the following areas:

Outputs of assessments that feed into Marine Act reporting 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).


Development and tools

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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