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West of Scotland MPA

All features of the former Rosemary Bank Seamount MPA are now protected within this West of Scotland MPA. Incorporating the features of the former Rosemary Bank Seamount MPA within this larger West of Scotland MPA was done to avoid overlapping designations. Further detailed information is available in the Relevant Documentation section below.

Status: Deep Sea Marine Reserve

West of Scotland MPA protects a diverse and unique marine landscape to the west of Scotland; from the steep gradient of the continental slope, across the sediment plains of the Rockall Trough, to the slopes of George Bligh Bank and Rockall Bank, including two isolated seamounts (Anton Dohrn and Rosemary Bank Seamount) created by extinct volcanoes.




The deep seas around Scotland are home to some of the most vulnerable and diverse habitats and species on Earth. The West of Scotland MPA makes a significant contribution to the protection of these unique deep-sea ecosystems in the seas around Scotland. Their protection ensures the MPA can provide a range of benefits to society, including nutrient cycling and carbon storage.

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

Map showing West of Scotland Marine Protected Area and linking to the MPA mapper


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


Protected Features

Feature Feature Type
Burrowed mud (including Sea-pens) Habitat feature
Coral gardens Habitat feature
Cold-water coral reefs (including Lophelia pertusa reefs) Habitat feature
Deep-sea sponge aggregations Habitat feature
Offshore deep-sea muds Habitat feature
Offshore sands and gravels Habitat feature
Seamount communities Habitat feature
Seamount Large-scale feature
Blue Ling (Molva dypterygia) Species feature
Leafscale gulper shark (Centrophorus squamosus) / Gulper shark (Centrophorus granulosus) Species feature
Orange roughy (Hoplostethus atlanticus) Species feature
Portuguese dogfish (Centroscymnus coelolepis) Species feature
Round-nose grenadier (Coryphaenoides rupestris) Species feature

A range of features representative of the Anton Dohrn Seamount (and adjacent sea floor), George Bligh Bank (and adjacent sea floor), North-east Rockall Bank (and adjacent sea floor), Rosemary Bank Seamount (and adjacent sea floor), Summer Isles to Sula Sgeir Fan, The Barra Fan and the Peach Slide Complex Key Geodiversity Areas.

These seven Key Geodiversity Areas include bioherm reefs, cliff, continental slope turbidite canyons, erosional scour fields, iceberg ploughmarks, ice-distal and glacimarine facies, ice-proximal and ice-contact facies (e.g. mega-scale glacial lineations), large bank (Palaeogene igneous centre), parasitic cones, prograding wedge, scour moats, seamount (Palaeogene igneous centre), sediment drifts, sediment wave field, slide deposit, slide scars, small scale ridges, sub-glacial tills, turbidite accumulations.

Geological and geomorphological features

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 West of Scotland MPA. More detail can be found in the Relevant Documentation section.

August 2019
Site recommended to Marine Scotland.
September–December 2019
Site subject to formal public consultation and becomes material consideration in the licensing process.
September 2020
Deep-sea marine reserve designated.


Relevant Documentation

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

  • Ecological Overview Document – provides an overview of our ecological understanding of the MPA; both in terms of the protected features and the geographic area more broadly with regards to its functional significance.
  • Data Confidence Assessment – provides an overview of JNCC’s confidence in the data underpinning presence and extent for the protected features of the MPA.
  • Conservation and Management Advice – provides an overview of the conservation objectives for the protected features of the MPA and the management measures considered necessary to best achieve those objectives.
  • Designation Order – Scottish Ministerial Order underpinning the designation of the deep-sea marine reserve, including MPA boundary co-ordinates, and information on protected features and their conservation objectives.
  • Consultation Report – Provides an analysis and response to the comments received during the public consultation run by Marine Scotland on the deep-sea marine reserve.



Last updated: September 2020

Information for this site summary was adapted from the West of Scotland Ecological Overview 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 West of Scotland MPA covers a diverse marine landscape to the west of Scotland; from the steep continental slope across the sediment plains of the Rockall Trough, to the slopes of George Bligh Bank and Rockall Bank with two isolated seamounts (Anton Dohrn and Rosemary Bank) created by extinct volcanoes.

It is the geological and geomorphological features of the MPA that define this varied and interesting marine landscape, with volcanic igneous rock protrusions forming the seamounts and the large banks at the western extent of the MPA. Slide deposits are a characteristic feature along the Scottish continental slope, while other geomorphological and glacial remnant features such as sediment wave fields, scour moats, turbidite accumulations and iceberg plough marks form the landscape of the seabed.

The interaction of these features with ocean currents determines the sediment types we find across the seabed. These are protected sedimentary habitat features of the MPA; offshore deep-sea muds and offshore subtidal sands and gravels and the biological communities that inhabit them. A particular type of muddy habitat, burrowed mud is also a protected feature of the MPA and supports a range of burrowing megafauna such as mud shrimps. The ‘bioturbation’ or burrowing activity of these species (and others such as polychaete worms) mixes the sediment and allows oxygen to penetrate deeper into otherwise anoxic layers allowing the sediments to support a greater diversity of species. This habitat also plays a critical role in nutrient exchange between the water column and sediments, with bioturbation releasing nutrients into the water column, making them available to the food chain. Where this occurs at larger scales, it can result in the fixing of carbon that may assist in climate regulation.

All of the protected biodiversity features of the MPA are Priority Marine Features (PMFs); these are habitats and species considered to be of conservation priority in Scotland’s seas. Coral gardens, cold-water coral reefs (including Lophelia pertusa reefs), deep-sea sponge aggregations, seamount communities, Leafscale gulper shark (Centrophorus squamosus), Gulper shark (Centrophorus granulosus), Orange roughy (Hoplostethus atlanticus) and Portuguese dogfish (Centroscymnus coelolepis) are also listed as OSPAR Threatened and/or Declining habitats or species in the North-East Atlantic region. Burrowed mud (including sea-pens), coral gardens, cold-water coral reefs (including Lophelia pertusa reefs), deep-sea sponge aggregations and seamount communities are all Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems (VMEs) as identified by the joint International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) / North-west Atlantic Fisheries Organisation (NAFO) Working Group on Deep-Water Ecology (WGDEC) for the North-east Atlantic. These are habitats/ecosystems that are classified as vulnerable (i.e. susceptible to damage). 

Deep-sea sponge aggregations, cold-water coral reefs and coral gardens are known as 'habitat formers'. The physical structures they provide, create an environment that other species can colonise. In doing so, they support a diverse community of species. Sponges may also play a significant role in silicon regulation by providing a long-term sink for silicon, while coral skeletons act as a long-term store of carbon.

The MPA protects six deep-sea fish species (blue ling (Molva dypterygia), orange roughy, leafscale gulper shark / gulper shark, Portuguese dogfish and round-nose grenadier (Coryphaenoides rupestris). The MPA contains characteristic habitat for round-nose grenadier, leafscale gulper shark, gulper shark, and Portuguese dogfish. Round-nose grenadier are resident within the MPA, and this is one of only 17 locations globally where Gulper shark has been reported. The MPA protects important aspects of these species' life-cycles, such as spawning areas.

The two seamounts (Rosemary Bank and Anton Dohrn) are protected as large-scale features of the MPA and for the rich seamount communities they support. The seamounts create a very different environment to the sedimentary plains of the Rockall Trough. The dynamic hydrographic environment surrounding the seamounts creates waters that are rich in food for suspension feeders such as sponges and corals that colonise the seamounts.  Many fish species such as blue ling, black scabbard and mesopelagic lantern fish are attracted to seamounts for feeding or spawning. The concentrations of fish and other prey species around seamounts also attracts larger predators and marine mammals such as Atlantic white-sided dolphin and Sperm whale, which have been observed in high numbers around these features.

Further detail on the evidence for this MPA can be found in the Evidence section.

Site location: Co-ordinates for this MPA can be found in the Designation Order listed in the Relevant Documentation section.

Site area: 107,718 km2.

Site depth range: The shallowest area within the MPA is approximately 400 m below sea-level. In contrast, the deepest section of the MPA is 2,500 m below sea-level.

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

Site boundary description: The MPA boundary follows approximately the 800 m depth contour and extends to the edge of British Fisheries Limits out to 200 nautical miles. The West of Scotland MPA boundary excludes most of the existing MPAs within the Rockall Trough area. Although Anton Dohrn Seamount Special Area of Conservation (SAC) does fully overlap with the West of Scotland MPA, it remains an MPA in its own right. The top of Anton Dohrn Seamount falls outwith the SAC boundary however and is encompassed by the West of Scotland MPA.



Last updated: September 2020

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 West of Scotland MPA Data Confidence Assessment. JNCC will be adding relevant survey data for this MPA to our MPA interactive map in due course. Some of the data for this 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 RRS James Cook undertook a six week research cruise in the North East Atlantic, collecting data from locations including Anton Dohrn Seamount, George Bligh Bank and Rosemary Bank Seamount. The aim of this project was to investigate the theory that populations at bathyal depths are more isolated because the currents that transport larvae decrease with depth.
  • Anton Dohrn SEA/SAC survey (2009) – commissioned by JNCC and undertaken by the British Geological Survey, University of Plymouth and Marin Mättenik AB. The survey collected high quality acoustic and photographic ‘ground-truthing’ data from Anton Dohrn seamount.
  • 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 collected multibeam and underwater imagery data from areas off the north and west coasts of Scotland. The areas surveyed within the West of Scotland MPA were George Bligh Bank and Rosemary Bank Seamount.
  • RV Kommandor Jack Strategic Environmental Assessment survey (2005) – a survey undertaken by the Department of Trade & Industry (DTI), (now the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) as part of the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) process. This survey collected multibeam and underwater imagery data from areas off the north and west coasts of Scotland. The areas surveyed within the West of Scotland MPA were George Bligh Bank, Rosemary Bank and Anton Dohrn seamounts.
  • RRS James Clark Ross survey (2003) – The British Antarctic Survey – Natural Environment Research Council commissioned survey on the James Clark Ross undertaken at Rosemary Bank Seamount, delivering multibeam data that has helped to define the extent of the seamount.
  • Marine Scotland Science Deepwater surveys (1997/2018) – these surveys by MRV Scotia are dedicated to gathering data on deep-water fish species along the continental slope and shelf edge to the west of Scotland. The surveys were initially prompted by the development of deep-water fisheries in this area. The time series of data collected will enable long-term population trends and potential impacts of these fisheries to be identified.
  • 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:

  • Doggett, M., Baldock, B. & Goudge, H. (2018). A review of the distribution and ecological importance of seabed communities in the deep waters surrounding Scotland. JNCC Report No. 625, JNCC, Peterborough, ISSN 0963-8091.
  • 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.
  • Priede, I.G. (2018) Deep-sea Fishes Literature Review. JNCC Report No. 619. JNCC, Peterborough. ISSN 0963-8091. – This review helped support information on the presence and extent of deep-sea fish species, and their life history characteristics within the West of Scotland MPA.
  • White, W.T., Ebert, D.A., Naylor, G.J.P., Ho, H.-C., Clerkin, P., Veríssimo, A. & Cotton, C.F. (2013). Revision of the genus Centrophorus (Squaliformes: Centrophoridae): Part 1 — Redescription of Centrophorus granulosus (Bloch & Schneider), a senior synonym of C. acus Garman and C. niaukang Teng. Zootaxa 3752(1): 35-72.


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 West of Scotland MPA Data Confidence Assessment, please contact us.


Conservation Advice

Last updated: September 2020

The overarching conservation objectives for the site is for its designated features 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 deep-sea marine reserve and will be added in due course. In the interim, please refer to the Conservation Objectives and Management Advice document under the Relevant Documentation section.

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's conservation advice and a short video explaining how to use the conservation advice packages.


Activities and Management

Last updated: September 2020

Management status: Progressing towards being well managed.

Progress is ongoing with the recommendation of fisheries management proposals 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 member of 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 West of Scotland MPA around each of these 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 conservation advice webpages.
  • JNCC are in the process of improving our MPA conservation advice packages. Further information is available on our conservation advice pages.
  • Spatial information on this MPA is available via JNCC's MPA mapper.


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.


  • 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.
  • The site falls within the UK's offshore waters and 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 web pages.

Licensable activities

  • Whilst ‘licensable’ activities such as oil and gas exploration and production do not take place within West of Scotland MPA at present, any future proposals would have to comply with Section 127 of the Marine and Coastal Access Act (2009).
  • 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 industries advice webpage.


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 under 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: September 2020

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: September 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 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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