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West of Walney MPA

JNCC and Natural England have jointly prepared updated formal conservation advice for West of Walney MCZ. Further information is available in the Conservation Advice section below.

Status: Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) 

West of Walney MCZ is a joint inshore and offshore site situated 8 km west of Walney Island, on the Cumbrian coast of north-west England.

 

Site

Situated 8 km west of Walney Island, West of Walney MCZ is a joint inshore and offshore site on the Cumbrian coast of north-west England. Natural England is the other statutory nature conservation body responsible for the site within 12 nm.

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

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

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Legislation

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

Protected features

EUNIS Code: Protected Feature Feature Type
A5.2: Subtidal sand Broad-Scale Habitat
A5.3: Subtidal mud Broad-Scale Habitat
Sea-pen and burrowing megafauna communities Habitat Feature of Conservation Importance

Specific information on the conservation objectives relating to this site is provided in the Conservation Advice section. JNCC's conservation advice for this site is produced jointly with Natural England.

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 at the top of this section and in JNCC's MPA mapperwith the underpinning evidence available within the 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 West of Walney MCZ.  More detail can be found within the Relevant Documentation section.

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Relevant Documentation

The documents referred to below and any other historical documents relating to West of Walney MCZ were produced during the selection and designation process and therefore may be out of date.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

  • West of Walney MCZ Designation Order – Official prescription 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 the gov.uk website.
  • Natural England's Tranche Two pre- and post-consultation advice to Defra provides the data used to support site identification, along with information on confidence in feature presence and extent.
  • JNCC and Natural England's joint draft conservation advice for this site is available through Natural England's Designated Sites System, with further supporting information available on the gov.uk website.

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Summary

Last updated: October 2017

Reviewed: November 2018

Site Overview

West of Walney MCZ is situated approximately 8 km west of Walney Island on the Cumbrian coast of north-west England. The site has an area of approximately 388 km2 and includes part of an area known as the eastern Irish Sea mud belt that is geographically isolated from the deep-water mud habitat in the western Irish Sea.

The seabed in the MCZ contains two broad-scale habitats (BSH); subtidal mud and subtidal sand. A particular type of mud habitat known as Sea-pen and burrowing megafauna communities occurs here, characterised by the presence of sea-pens (feather-like soft corals) and burrowing animals such as mud shrimp and the Norway lobster Nephrops norvegicus. The burrowing activity of these animals provides an important ecological function in the bioturbation (mixing) of the sediments, this allows oxygen to penetrate deeper and increases the structural complexity of the habitat. Sea-pen and burrowing megafauna communities are a habitat Feature of Conservation Importance (FOCI) and an OSPAR Threatened and/or Declining habitat in the north east Atlantic and specifically in the Irish Sea.

This mud habitat is of high commercial fishing interest as it is the supporting habitat of the Norway lobster Nephrops norvegicus. The Nephrops population in the eastern Irish Sea is smaller (in number) than the western Irish Sea, and the two populations are not thought to be connected by larval dispersal. Historical survey data, conducted off Sellafield, Cumbria, found the slender sea-pen Virgularia mirabilis associated with particular sediment types. Fewer V. mirabilis have been recorded in more recent surveys, conducted further south, in the vicinity of the West of Walney site; though similar sediment habitats occur here. 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:  388 km2 – a similar size to the Isle of Wight (384 km2) off the south coast of England.

Site depth range:  West of Walney MCZ ranges in depth from 15–33 m.

Charting Progress 2 biogeographic region: Irish Sea. 

Site boundary description: The southern boundary of West of Walney MCZ follows the border of two windfarm licence areas and also includes a smaller windfarm area within the boundary. The boundary of West of Walney MCZ was developed by the Irish Seas Conservation Zones Regional MCZ Project and has not changed since it was recommended by the Regional MCZ Project in 2011. The final boundary for this site aims to balance the impact on the commercial fishing industry, whilst contributing to the MCZ Project Ecological Network Guidance targets.

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Evidence

Last updated: October 2017

Reviewed: November 2018 

Site-specific data

The full overview of the data used to support site identification, along with information on confidence in feature presence and extent is available in Natural England's Tranche Two pre- and post-consultation advice to Defra. JNCC will be adding relevant survey data for this MPA to its MPA mapper in due course.

Data for this MCZ have been gathered from existing data sources such as research surveys and survey undertaken as part of licence conditions for the development of windfarms. Data from these surveys provide direct evidence confirming the presence of the protected features within the site.

 

Survey and data gathering

  • Hilmar Hinz (2003–2004) – To investigate chronic effects of trawl disturbance, a number of survey stations were sampled off the West Cumbrian coast (Hinz et al. 2009, funded by EU project 'Response' QLRT-2001-00787). Three survey stations from the November 2004 survey were located within West of Walney MCZ and provide supporting information on the presence and extent of the broad-scale habitat Subtidal mud.
  • Jan Hiddock, (School of Ocean Sciences, Bangor University) (2007–2009) – R.V. Prince Madog was used to collect Day grab samples at 26 stations across the northern Irish Sea in June 2007. The purpose of this survey was to investigate relationships between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. In 2009 the R.V. Prince Madog collected Day grab samples off the Cumbrian coast, the purpose of the survey was to investigate indirect negative effects of bottom trawl fisheries on fish condition. Two survey stations from the 2007 survey and three stations from the 2009 survey provide supporting information on the presence and extent of the broad-scale habitat Subtidal mud within West of Walney MCZ.
  • Walney and Ormonde Offshore Windfarm Benthic survey (2009) – These data were collected on behalf of Vattenfall and DONG Energy, for pre-development baseline survey work carried out on the benthic environment for the Ormonde and Walney Offshore Wind Farm developments. The surveys collected still images, Day grabs, and 2 m beam trawls. Twenty-one survey stations sampled using Day grab samples and camera stills support the presence of the broadscale habitat subtidal mud.
  • Walney Extension (2011) – Pre-construction monitoring surveys commissioned by Dong Energy were undertaken as part of licence conditions for the development of the consented Walney windfarm. Twenty sample stations support the presence of Subtidal mud, and 15 stations support the presence of the habitat feature of conservation importance Sea-pen and burrowing megafauna communities within the West of Walney site.
  • Irish Sea Offshore Windfarm benthic Survey Reports, Dong Energy (2011) – Data were collected on behalf of Dong energy, as a part of the windfarm licence process to monitor their effects on benthic habitats. Twenty sample stations support the presence of Subtidal mud within the West of Walney site.
  • Walney Wind Farms (2012) – Data were collected on behalf of Dong energy, as a part of the windfarm licence process to monitor their effects on benthic habitats. Twenty-five stations support the presence of subtidal mud. Nineteen stations support the presence of Sea-pen and burrowing megafauna.
  • Walney Wind Farms (2013) – Data were collected on behalf of Dong energy, as a part of the windfarm licence conditions to monitor the projects effect on benthic habitats. Twenty-five stations support the presence of subtidal mud, one station supports the presence of subtidal sand, and seventeen stations support the presence of Sea-pen and burrowing megafauna.
  • West Duddon Sands Pre-Consultation Benthic Survey Data (2012) – The Centre for Marine and Coastal Studies (CMACS), collected benthic survey data on behalf of Dong Energy as part of licence conditions for the West of Duddon Sands windfarm development. Particle Size Analysis (PSA) from Day grabs at seven stations support the presence of subtidal mud within the West of Walney site.
  • Eastern Irish Sea Nephrops survey (2010/2013) – CEFAS and the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) collected survey data at stations within West of Walney site, as part of a Nephrops stock assessment survey of the Eastern Irish Sea, ICES assessment area (Functional Unit 14). Data verifying the presence of the mud habitat ‘Sea-pen and burrowing megafauna communities’ were recorded. 

 

Data analysis reports

  • Walney and Ormonde Offshore Windfarm Benthic survey (2009) – This report presents analysis of data collected for pre-development baseline survey work carried out on the benthic environment for the Ormonde and Walney Offshore Wind Farm developments. The surveys collected still images, Day grabs, and 2 m beam trawls. These data support the presence of the broadscale habitat subtidal mud within West of Walney MCZ.

 

Additional relevant literature

References for further supporting scientific literature consulted during the identification of this site can be found in Natural England's 2015 pre- and post-consultation scientific advice to Defra. Please be aware that although these sources contain information in relation to this MPA, they do not necessarily represent the views of JNCC. 

 

Knowledge gaps

If you are aware of any additional data or relevant scientific papers for this site not listed in the relevant documentation, please contact us

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Conservation Advice

Last updated: September 2018

Reviewed: November 2018

JNCC and Natural England have prepared joint formal conservation advice for West of Walney MCZ. This advice is available on Natural England's Designated Sites System for West of Walney MCZ. 

The formal advice reflects the most up-to-date evidence held by both Natural England and JNCC and must be taken into consideration when undertaking an assessment of the effects which a planned activity can have on the site’s integrity and when making decisions regarding management and consenting of marine activities in or near the site. For more information on JNCC’s approach to conservation advice, please see our 'Conserving MPAs' webpage. Information can also be found on the gov.uk website

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Activities and Management

Last updated: November 2018

Reviewed: November 2018

Management status: Progressing towards being well managed

The vulnerability assessment conducted for this site suggests it is unlikely to be moving towards its conservation objectives, but directed site condition monitoring data are needed to improve our confidence in this assessment. Licensed activities are being managed, and fisheries management measures are in development for this site.

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.

The sub-sections that follow provide an account of the progress of West of Walney MCZ 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 in 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 features of the site. The protected features of the site are considered to be sensitive to pressures associated with fishing and 'licensable' activities.

Fisheries

  • There is evidence of mobile demersal effort by both UK and non-UK registered vessels, and pelagic trawl activity by non-UK registered vessels within the West of Walney MCZ. Demersal otter trawling, mainly targeting Nephrops, and activity from beam trawls occurs within the site.
  • Inshore fisheries in the area between 0–6 nautical miles are managed through the Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities, and between 6–12nm by the Marine Management Organisation (MMO). Additional information on wider management measures which overlap the site are available on the Natural England Designated Sites System for this site.

Licensable activities

  • Most oil and gas activity in this area is located to the south of the MPA, however a small number of wells occur within the site and five pipelines cross the site. Licensed oil and gas blocks overlap the MPA and so may be subject to development applications in the future.
  • Four operational windfarms (Ormonde, West of Duddon sands, Walney 1 & 2) and one windfarm under construction (Walney extension) overlap with the West of Walney MCZ.
  • Licensable activities such as renewable energy developments or 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 (where applicable in offshore waters) and Natural England have a statutory responsibility to advise the regulator on developments that are capable of affecting (other than insignificantly) the protected features of the MPA and that may hinder the achievement of the site's 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 features of this MPA.
  • For further information, please see the MMO’s guidance on marine conservation zones and marine licensing.
  • Further information on JNCC's role in the provision of advice for licensed activities in the UK offshore area is available on the offshore industry advice webpages

Telecommunications cables

  • One telecommunications cable currently crosses through the MPA, and a network of energy cables associated with wind renewable energy developments are located within the site.
  • Cables are largely an unregulated activity in offshore waters depending upon the type of cable being laid (or maintained), where it is being laid between and whether the cable is part of a larger development (which may be regulated). Any cable not directly associated with an energy installation does not require a marine license beyond 12 nautical miles.
  • JNCC encourages early discussion from operators regarding any plans related to new or existing cables, and encourages the undertaking of non-statutory environmental impact assessments for new or existing cable projects to assess their effect on the protected features of the MPA.

 

3. Site condition monitoring

Site condition monitoring surveys are yet to take place within this MPA. Further information will be made available in the Monitoring section

 

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. The site has a 'restore' conservation objective based on the findings of a vulnerability assessment which suggests the site is unlikely to be moving towards its conservation objectives. Further information will be provided in the Assessment section.

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Monitoring

Last updated: October 2017

Reviewed: November 2018

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.

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Assessment

Last updated: October 2017

Reviewed: November 2018

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).

 

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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