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West of Copeland MPA

Status: Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ)

West of Copeland MCZ is located in the eastern region of the Irish Sea.


The West of Copeland MCZ is located in the eastern region of the Irish Sea. The seabed is characterised by a mix of sediments ranging from fine sands to coarse sediment which support an array of species. 

The site covers an area of 158 km2. The seabed is predominately Subtidal sand and Subtidal coarse sediment, with areas of Subtidal mixed sediments in the north-eastern section of the MCZ. These habitats are home to species including worms, sea urchins, anemones, crabs, sea mats and bivalve molluscs (such as venus clams (Chamelea gallina) and razor clams (Ensis ensis)).

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

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


Map showing West of Copeland 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
Subtidal coarse sediment Broad-scale habitat
Subtidal sand Broad-scale habitat
Subtidal mixed sediments Broad-scale habitat

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 Monitoring and Evidence section below.


Site Timeline

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

The diagram below is a summary of the key milestones involved in the selection and designation of West of Copeland MCZ.

Shortfall identified for Subtidal sand in the Irish Sea region of MPA network. West of Copeland identified as a new site option to address shortfall.
June 2018 – July 2018
West of Copeland MCZ included in formal public consultation on Tranche Three MCZs.
May 2019
Tranche three designations announced – West of Copeland MCZ designated


Relevant Documentation

The documents referred to below and any other historical documents relating to West of Copeland 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.



Last updated: June 2020

Information for this site summary was adapted from JNCC’s scientific advice to Defra on West of Copeland 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

West of Copeland MCZ covers an area of 158 km2. The depth of the site range from 5–10 m in the north, gradually deepening to approximately 25 m in the central area and a deeper region in the southern corner where the depth reaches 100 m. The seabed is characterised by a mixture of sediments which provides habitats for a range of species including bivalve molluscs (such as venus clams and razor clams), sea urchins, starfish, crabs, sea mats and anemones.

In 2016, JNCC undertook a network assessment which identified a shortfall of Subtidal sand in the Irish Sea. Data provided by the British Geological Society (BGS) and 2011 survey conducted for the Walney Wind Farm Extension mapped the biophysical features in this area, and underpins the EUSeaMap and UKSeaMap broad-scale habitat map of the MCZ. The spatial distribution of features is further supported by a high-resolution habitat map produced from the 2015 Eastern Irish Sea survey. Furthermore, biotope analysis is available from the AFBI and JNCC Isle of Man Sandbank study (Marine Recorder) data on the Subtidal coarse sediment, Subtidal sand and Subtidal mixed sediments. Based on these data sources, West of Copeland was identified as a site to address the shortfall of Subtidal sand in the MPA network and was designated in 2019.

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: 158 km2

Site depth range: 5–100 m.

Charting Progress 2 Biogeographic Region: Irish Sea.

Site boundary description: The site boundary is delineated predominantly by the territorial seas limits at the eastern and western edges of the MCZ polygon.  


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.


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: May 2022

Formal conservation advice was produced in May 2022.  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 MCZ assessment for a plan or project that could impact the site;
  • provide information for an MCZ 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 May 2022). 



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 provide supplementary advice in the SACO which is essential reading to support interpretation of these conservation objectives. It provides further detail and site-specific information for each feature within the site, including which of the attributes need to be conserved and which ones recovered.

You can use these documents to assess the impacts of your planned activity on the important attributes of the site.

Conservation advice statements

These statements provide a summary of the 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 consider 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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