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Turbot Bank MPA

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

Turbot Bank MPA is located off the east coast of Scotland and lies within an area of sandy sediment, including part of the shelf bank and mound feature known as 'Turbot Bank'.

Site

Located off the east coast of Scotland, the Turbot Bank MPA lies within an area of sandy sediment, including part of the shelf bank and mound feature known as 'Turbot Bank'.

Turbot Bank is important for sandeels which are closely associated with sand habitats, living buried in the sand for months at a time. The Turbot Bank MPA encompasses areas where high numbers of sandeels have been found. Sandeels play an important role in the wider North Sea ecosystem, providing a vital source of food for larger fish, seabirds and marine mammals. Turbot Bank has the potential to act as a source of young sandeels for maintaining and restocking surrounding areas.

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

Map showing Turbot Bank Marine Protected Area and linking to the MPA mapper

Legislation

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

 

Protected Features

Feature Feature Type
Sandeels Mobile species

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 on JNCC’s MPA mapper, and the evidence underpinning this can be viewed in the Monitoring and Evidence section.

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Site Timeline

The diagram below is a summary of the key milestones involved in the selection and designation of Turbot Bank. More detail can be found in the Relevant Documentation section.

November 2012
Site recommended to Marine Directorate.
Summer 2013
Site subject to formal public consultation and becomes a material consideration in licensing processes.
July 2014
Site designated by Marine Directorate as a Nature Conservation MPA.

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Relevant Documentation

The documents referred to below and any other historical documents relating to Turbot Bank were produced during the selection and designation process and therefore may be out of date.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

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Summary

Last updated: October 2017

The information for this site summary was adapted from documents listed in the Relevant Documentation section and incorporates any information gathered since these documents were produced.

 

Site overview

The Turbot Bank MPA is located to the south-west of the Fladen Grounds in the northern North Sea, 44 km east of Peterhead on the east coast of Scotland. The MPA lies within an area of sandy sediment and includes the shelf bank and mound feature known as 'Turbot Bank'.

Turbot Bank is important for sandeels, particularly Raitt’s sand eel (Ammodytes marinus), which is closely associated with sand habitats, living buried in the sand for months at a time. The site contains the type of sandy sediment with low silt and clay components that sandeels prefer. The sandeels present within Turbot Bank are an important component of the larger sandeel population in the northern North Sea.

Sandeels are a commercially important fish and regularly school together in large aggregations. Sandeel numbers have varied over the last several decades, apparently due to a mixture of historic overfishing and changes in food supply. Fishing effort at the site has reduced in recent times and catch allowances remain limited in this part of the North Sea. This, combined with the sandeel's relatively short lifespan, suggests that the population at Turbot Bank may now be close to its natural age and size composition.

Sandeels play an important role in the wider North Sea ecosystem, providing a vital source of food for seabirds such as Atlantic puffin (Fratercula arcticaand black-legged kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla), fish such as plaice (Pleuronectes platessa), and marine mammals such as dolphins. Conserving Turbot Bank will help to sustain this ecosystem service and maintain its potential to act as a source of young sandeels (larvae) for surrounding areas, most likely to the east and south of the site based on current prevailing patterns. Further detail on the evidence for this Nature Conservation MPA can be found in the Monitoring and 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: 251 km2.

Site depth range: Depth at the site ranges from 60 m below sea-level on top of the Turbot Bank shelf bank and mound feature down to 80 m on the margins of the bank.

Charting Progress 2 Biogeographic Region: Northern North Sea.

Site boundary description: The boundary of the MPA has been drawn to focus on the sample records of relatively high sandeel density together with areas of sediment considered suitable for sandeel colonisation in the vicinity of Turbot Bank. The boundary to the west reflects the full extent of the Turbot Bank shelf bank and mound feature based on interpretation of acoustic data. The edge of the bank is included because sandeels are reported to aggregate into dense schools in these areas.

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Monitoring and Evidence

Last updated: November 2023

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 Turbot Bank Nature Conservation MPA Data Confidence Assessment. JNCC will be adding relevant survey data 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 feature within the site.

 

Survey and data gathering

  • Cruise report for the 2012 offshore seabed survey of Turbot Bank possible MPA (2017) – This cruise report summarises operations and initial observations made on board the RV Cefas Endeavour during the cruise CEND19x/12 on behalf of JNCC. The survey took place between 17 November and 1 December 2012. The aim was to gather additional evidence to support the development of fisheries management measures and develop a baseline for future site monitoring.
  • East-coast sandeel dredge surveys (2008–2011) – Several dredge surveys were conducted in the area over a four-year period by Marine Scotland Science. Thirty-three records of sandeel abundance were taken from the central and eastern parts of the site, showing an average catch per unit effort of 99 sandeels, but up to 285 individuals.

 

Data analysis reports

  • Offshore seabed survey of Turbot Bank possible MPA – Analysis of acoustic and ground-truthing data for the 2012 survey mentioned above. The analysis examined the presence and extent of seabed habitats and their suitability for settling sandeels. 
  • Sandeel (Ammodytes marinus) larval transport patterns in the North Sea (2008) – Young sandeel transport in the North Sea was modelled by Christensen et al. (2008) considering local physical conditions. The models for 1974–2004 suggest that sandeel larvae from Turbot Bank travel to settling grounds to the east, south-east and, to a lesser extent, to the south.
  • 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. Six of eight 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 Turbot Bank may disperse widely across the North Sea.

 

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.

  • Christensen, A., Jensen, H., Mosegaard, H., John, M.S. and Schrum, C. (2008). Sandeel (Ammodytes marinus) larval transport patterns in the North Sea from an individual-based hydrodynamic egg and larval model. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, 65 (7): 1498–1511.
  • Wright, P.J., Jensen, H. and Tuck, I. (2000). The influence of sediment type on the distribution of the lesser sandeel, Ammodytes marinus. Journal of Sea Research, 44 (3–4): 243–256.
  • 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.

 

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 Marine Directorate of Scottish Government, in partnership with JNCC and NatureScot, developed a Scottish Marine Protected Area (MPA) monitoring strategy. The Strategy spans Scottish territorial and offshore waters, focusing on biodiversity within Marine Protected Areas. The Strategy is supported by a series of annexes which provide more detail on monitoring methods, collaborative working, current monitoring and a two year forward look for MPA monitoring in Scottish waters.

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

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Conservation Advice

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 'Conserving MPAs' webpage along with a Glossary of Terms used in JNCC's 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). 

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 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

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Activities and Management

Last updated: March 2017

Management status: Progressing towards being well managed.

Progress is ongoing with fisheries management options being developed. There is no long-term condition monitoring information available with which to infer with confidence as to the degree to which the conservation objective for the site is being met.

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 Turbot Bank Nature Conservation MPA around each of the 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 feature of the site. The protected feature of the site is considered sensitive to pressures associated with direct sandeel fishing and 'licensable' activities.

Fisheries

  • There is evidence of dredging, mobile demersal and pelagic gear effort by both UK and non-UK registered vessels in this MPA but there is no evidence of directed sandeel fishing.
  • The site sits within the Sandeel Area 4 management unit for which there is currently a very limited Total Allowable Catch for sandeels. In addition, a small area to the west of the MPA overlaps with the East of UK sandeel closure area which was introduced to prevent localised depletion of sandeels (Article 29a Council Regulation (EC) No 227/2013). A reduced fishery for scientific investigation is permitted within the closed area although this option has not been taken up in recent years.
  • The Marine Directorate of Scottish Government 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 Directorate’s webpages.

Licensable activities

  • The site overlaps with one licensed oil and gas production area (known as a license 'block' as identified by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy) and two, as-yet-unlicensed blocks. Therefore, the site may be subject to further oil and gas development in the future. Although oil and gas infrastructure occurs nearby to the site, there is currently no infrastructure inside the site itself.
  • Licensable activities such as oil and gas exploration and production taking place or 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 significantly affecting 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.
  • For further information, see the Marine Directorate’s MPA Draft Management Handbook and the Marine Directorate’s guidance for marine license applications
  • 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

Shipping

  • There is low density of commercial shipping in this area and due to its offshore location, vessel anchorage is unlikely.
  • Under international law (UNCLOS, Article 17), ships have a right of innocent passage at sea, including in areas designated as MPAs. The pressures associated with shipping activity within the site are not considered likely to impact the protected feature.

Wrecks

  • One shipwreck has been identified in the site.

 

3. Site condition monitoring

No site condition monitoring surveys have been undertaken on the site since its designation.

 

4. Assessment of progress towards conservation objectives

No long-term condition monitoring information is available to inform whether or not the site is moving towards or achieving its conservation objectives.

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Published: .

This Site Information Centre (SIC) was created prior to the end of the Transition Period following the UK’s exit from the European Union (31 December 2020). Therefore some of the content may still refer to EU legislation and management proposals or commitments which were correct at the time that the content was created. These references will be revised as necessary when the SIC is next substantially revised. Requirements through EU legislation are retained in the UK so existing environmental protections and standards remain, and the protection given to habitats and species continues.

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