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Western Channel MPA

Status: Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ)

Western Channel MCZ is located 54 km off the south coast of England to the south-east of the Lizard Peninsula.

Site

Located 54 km off the south coast of England, Western Channel MCZ is south-east of the Lizard Peninsula. The southern boundary of the site follows the country median line between the UK and France.

The site makes a large contribution to the protection of Subtidal coarse sediment and Subtidal sand in the region. It is also important for the connectivity between both MPAs in the UK offshore region and also between the MPAs in UK waters and those in French waters.

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

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

Map showing Western Channel Marine Protected Area and linking to the MPA mapper

Legislation

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

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 Evidence section below.

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Site Timeline

The diagram below is a summary of the key milestones involved in the selection and designation of the Western Channel MCZ. More detail can be found within the Relevant Documentation section and Annex 3 of JNCC's advice on possible offshore Marine Conservation Zones considered for consultation in 2015.

September 2011
Regional Projects recommended a total of 127 rMCZs to Defra and the statutory nature conservation bodies (SNCBs).
January 2015 – April 2015
Western Channel rMCZ included in formal consultation on Tranche Two rMCZs.
January 2016
Tranche Two designations announced – Western Channel MCZ designated.

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Relevant Documentation

The documents referred to below and any other historical documents relating to Western Channel MCZ were produced during the selection and designation process and therefore may be out of date.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

  • Western Channel 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 2016
  • JNCC's formal conservation advice for this site is available in the Conservation Advice section.

Further information about the Marine Conservation Zone site selection process and historic MCZ advice is available on JNCC's MCZ webpages.

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Summary

Last updated October 2017

Information for this site summary was adapted from JNCC’s scientific advice to Defra on Western Channel MCZ 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

Western Channel MCZ is situated approximately 54 km off the south coast on England to the south-east of the Lizard Peninsula. The site is an area of continental shelf that is predominantly sandy with a mixed distribution of coarse and mixed sediments across the site extent.

The site protects subtidal habitats that are representative of offshore habitats in UK waters. This includes the protection of almost 1,440 km2 of Subtidal coarse sediment, as well as over 150 km2 of Subtidal sand. The acoustic signature from survey shows the presence of sand waves throughout the site known as 'Barchan dunes'. These crescent-shaped sand dunes are produced by the action of wind, predominately from one direction. These habitats support a range of animal species including segmented worms, sponges, molluscs and echinoderms, including sea urchins and starfish. Cnidarians, such as anemones, are also present alongside a variety of crustaceans and fish species, including the small spotted cat shark (Scyliorhinus canicula) and Angler fish (Lophius piscatorius).

Further detail on the evidence for this MCZ can be found on 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: 1,613.5 km2

Site depth range: 85–105 m

Charting Progress 2 biogeographic region: Western Channel & Celtic Seas.

Site Boundary description: The site is a simple polygon with six boundary lines running south west to north east in line with the guidance provided by the MCZ project Ecological Network Guidance (ENG). The southern boundary of the site aligns with the UK Continental Shelf boundary. The boundary of the Western Channel MCZ has not changed since it was recommended by the Finding Sanctuary Regional MCZ Project in 2011.

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Evidence

Last updated: December 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 Two MCZ pre-consultation and post-consultation scientific advice for offshore Marine Conservation Zones proposed for designation in 2016. 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. These data provide direct evidence confirming the presence of the protected features within the site.

 

Survey and data gathering

  • Cefas/JNCC site verification survey of Western Channel recommended MCZ (2012) – Cefas undertook a dedicated site survey CEND0312 in February 2012. MBES bathymetry and backscatter data were acquired and ground-truthing was collected from 58 stations using benthic grabs. Videos and still images were also collected at 38 stations.

 

Data analysis reports

Analysis of data gathered as part of the survey listed above, as well as other relevant data analysis products, are available via the following reports:

  • Community Analysis of Western Channel MCZ data (2016; JNCC Report No. 593) – JNCC undertook a community analysis of grab and video data to establish biotopes. The results show the following biotopes are present at the site:
    • SS.SCS.CCS.Blan: A5.145 Branchiostoma lanceolatum in circalittoral coarse sand with shell gravel
    • SS.SCS. CCS / CR.MCR.EcCr.CarSp: A5.14 circalittoral coarse sediment / A4.212 Caryophyllia smithii, sponges and crustose communities on wave-exposed circalittoral rock
  • EUSeaMap – Provides supporting information on the presence and extent of subtidal coarse sediment and subtidal sand from a predictive seabed habitat map of European waters.
  • Western Channel MCZ MB0120 Survey (2016) – JNCC collaborated on an MCZ site verification survey with Cefas to Western Channel MCZ funded through the MB0120 Defra data collection programme. Ground-truthing and acoustic data were collected across the majority of the site.
  • Western Channel rMCZ Post-survey Site Report (2014) – The data from the 2012 verification surveys have been analysed by Cefas. The analysis confirmed the presence of subtidal sand and subtidal coarse sediments. Moderate energy circalittoral rock and subtidal mixed sediments, which are not currently protected features of the site, were also identified.
  • British Geological Survey Particle Size Analysis (PSA) Data Points – Particle Size Analysis of historical data was used to identify habitat type and converted to the EUNIS broadscale habitats by JNCC. The data suggest subtidal coarse sediment occurs within the site.

References for further supporting scientific literature consulted during the identification of this site can be found in the annexes of our advice.

 

Knowledge gaps

If you are aware of any additional data or relevant scientific papers for this site not listed in the relevant documentation, including our Tranche Two MCZ pre-consultation and post-consultation scientific advice documents, please contact us.

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Conservation Advice

Last updated: March 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 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 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 March 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.
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 resources are available on JNCC's Resource Hub

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Activities and Management

Last updated October 2017

Management status: Management is in development.

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. Fisheries management is under discussion between the Marine Management Organisation, Defra and JNCC.

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 Western Channel 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 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 features of the site. The protected features of the site are considered to be sensitive to pressures associated with fishing and 'licensable' activities.

Fisheries

  • Vessel monitoring data indicate that there is mobile demersal gear and potting activity occurring within the MCZ.
  • The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) is the lead authority regarding the implementation of, and compliance with, any measures to manage fishing activity. Further information on progress is available via MMO webpages.

Licensable activities

  • Licensable activities such as oil and gas exploration and production do not take place within Western Channel MCZ at present, but any future proposals would be 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 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 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 JNCC’s offshore industry webpages

 

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 in due course.

 

4. Assessment of progress towards conservation objectives

No long-term condition monitoring data are available to determine whether the MPA is moving towards or has reached its conservation objectives. The site's protected features have 'recover' conservation objectives, based on a vulnerability assessment that examined exposure to activities associated with pressures to which the protected features of the site are considered sensitive. This suggests the site is unlikely to be moving towards its conservation objectives but site condition monitoring data would improve our confidence in this assessment. Further information will be provided in the Assessment section as it becomes available.

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Monitoring

Last updated October 2017

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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