Wight-Barfleur Reef is an area of bedrock and stony reef located in the central English Channel, between St Catherine’s point on the Isle of Wight and Barfleur Point on the Cotentin Peninsula in northern France.
Located in the central English Channel, between St Catherine’s point on the Isle of Wight and Barfleur Point on the Cotentin Peninsula in northern France, Wight-Barfleur Reef is an area of bedrock and stony reef.
The site is approximately 65 km long (east to west) and up to 26 km wide. The bedrock and stony reef areas support a diverse range of wildlife including sponges, tube worms, anemones and sea squirts. The south-eastern area of the site contains part of a large geological feature known as a palaeochannel, which forms a major channel running roughly in a north-east to south-west direction across the English Channel.
More detailed site information can be found in the Summary section below.
Map displaying the Wight-Barfleur Reef MPA boundary and associated protected feature data. Visit JNCC's MPA Mapper to further view and explore data for this MPA.
Legislation behind the designation: EU Habitats Directive 1992 transposed into UK law by the The Conservation of Offshore Marine Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 (as amended).
|Annex 1 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.
The diagram below is a summary of the key milestones involved in the selection and designation of Wight-Barfleur Reef SAC. More detail can be found within the Relevant Documentation section.
The documents referred to below and any other historical documents relating to Wight-Barfleur Reef SAC were produced during the selection and designation process and therefore may be out of date.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 SAC site selection process is available on JNCC's SAC webpages.
- Standard Data Form – Details the SAC and the designated features.
- SAC Selection Assessment Document – Overview of the SAC, designated features and rationale for site selection.
- Post-consultation Report and Impact Assessment – Overview of the consultation outcomes, and an assessment of the environmental, social and economic costs and benefits of the designation.
- JNCC's formal conservation advice for this site is available in the Conservation Advice section.
These resources are available on JNCC's Resource Hub.
Last updated: October 2017
Information for this site summary was adapted from documents listed in the Relevant Documentation section and incorporates any further information gathered since these documents were produced.
Wight-Barfleur Reef is an area of bedrock and stony reef located in the central English Channel, between St Catherine’s point on the Isle of Wight and Barfleur Point on the Cotentin Peninsula in northern France. The site is approximately 65 km long (east to west) and up to 26 km wide.
The large area of bedrock reef within the site is characterised by a series of well-defined exposed bedrock ridges, up to 4 m high. The rock is generally sandstone, mudstone and siltstone, although different regions within the boundary can be distinguished on the basis of the different textures formed by different types of rock.
The southern area of the site is composed of flat, smooth mudstone and sandstone, with overlying coarse sediment (gravels, cobbles and boulders) which in places forms stony reef. The south-eastern area of the site contains part of a large palaeochannel known as the Northern Palaeovalley, which forms a major channel running roughly north-east to south-west across the English Channel. In this area the palaeovalley remains largely unfilled by sediment due to the strong currents in the area, and is characterised by a gravel, cobble and boulder substrate which in places forms stony reef.
The bedrock and stony reef areas support a diverse range of reef fauna. There are many types of sponges present, from encrusting sponges to larger branching types. Tube worms, anemones and tunicates (sea squirts) are also common on the large boulders and bedrock. Further detail on the evidence for this SAC can be found in the Monitoring and Evidence section.
Site location: Co-ordinates for this SAC can be found in the Standard Data Form listed in the Relevant Documentation section.
Site area: This site has an area of 1,373 km2, just over three times the size of its namesake, the Isle of Wight.
Site depth range: The depth ranges from 25 m to 100 m below sea-level, with the deepest areas to the south, and within the palaeovalley which runs along the south-east part of the site.
Charting Progress 2 Biogeographic Region: Eastern Channel.
Site boundary description
The site boundary for Wight-Barfleur Reef SAC has been defined using JNCC’s marine SAC boundary definition guidelines. The SAC boundary is a simple polygon enclosing the minimum area necessary to ensure protection of the Annex I habitats. The bedrock reef feature was derived from UKHO survey bathymetry, interpreted following detailed acoustic and biological surveys in the area.
The boundary has been chosen to include the bedrock types in the area that include Annex I reef, based on interpretation of digital survey bathymetric acoustic data and ground-truthing with video. Stony reef has also been recorded in the south-western part of the site, but due to the inherently patchy distribution of stony reef, it is not possible to precisely delineate the extent of reef area here.
The south-east section of the SAC boundary has been drawn along the southern edge of the palaeochannel, to include all recorded occurrence of reef within the channel. The boundary includes a margin to allow for mobile fishing gear on the seabed being at some distance from the location of a vessel at the sea surface. This buffer has been applied to the bedrock feature in the north of the site, and to the individual reef points in the south of the site.
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 Wight-Barfleur Reef SAC Selection Assessment Document. JNCC will be adding relevant survey data to the MPA interactive map in due course.
Some of the data for this SAC 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
- Monitoring Survey of Wight-Barfleur Reef and Bassurelle Sandbank SACs (2017) – This collaborative survey, between Cefas and JNCC, of Bassurelle Sandbanks SAC and Wight-Barfleur Reef SAC aimed to acquire monitoring data to contribute to the development of a monitoring time-series for these two sites. Reporting is underway and will be made available in due course.
- Seabed survey of the central English Channel (2006) – As part of the ME1102 Defra contract, Cefas undertook survey work on behalf of JNCC in order to provide information on the distribution, extent and character of potential Annex I Reef habitat within the central English Channel. A 3-day pilot survey in May 2006 (CEND12/06) found widespread evidence of rock outcrops and a subsequent 12-day cruise in July/August 2006 (CEND14/06) conducted further acoustic surveys followed by directed ground-truth sampling using underwater video.
Data analysis and reports
- Offshore seabed survey of Wight-Barfleur Reef SAC (2021) – Report detailing the collaborative survey between Cefas and JNCC that took place in March and April 2013 (CEND0313). Conducted aboard the RV Cefas Endeavour in order to better understand the extent of Annex I reef (both bedrock and stony) within the area.
- UKHO Digital Survey Bathymetry data (2006). Using bathymetry to identify basin inversion structures on the English Channel shelf. Geology, 34 (12): 1,001–1,004. Bathymetric data were available for an extensive part of the central English Channel clearly showing bedform features, and has been used, in combination with rock samples and seismic data, to delineate areas of different rock type.
- Broadscale mapping of hard substrates in the central English Channel – provides an evidence base to support regional management of aggregate resources.
- Mapping Annex I Reefs in the central English Channel – provides evidence to support the selection of candidate SACs.
Additional relevant literature
References for further supporting scientific literature consulted during the identification of this site can be found in the Selection Assessment Document. 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:
- SAC Management Survey, Wight Barfleur and Bassurelle Sandbank (2019) – This report describes the collaborative survey between Cefas and JNCC that took place in March and April 2013 (CEND0313). The survey aimed to collect additional information on the seabed and benthic habitats, to support the development of management advice for these two sites.
- MCZ Verification Survey, Wight-Barfleur Reef Extension rMCZ (2012) – Survey work in the area adjacent to Wight-Barfleur SAC recommended for designation as an MCZ.
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.
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 Conservation Advice webpages 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 a Habitats Regulation Assessment (HRA) for a plan or project that could impact the site;
- provide information for a HRA;
- respond to specific measures to support delivery of 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 updated advice replaces the previous Regulation 18 package for the site. This advice reflects the most up-to-date evidence held by JNCC (correct as of March 2018).
|Explains the purpose of the advice and when it must be referred to.
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).
|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.
Activities and Management
Last updated: October 2017
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 required to improve our confidence in this assessment. Progress is ongoing with the recommendation of fisheries management proposals.
This site forms part of the networks of MPAs across the UK and contributes to international MPA networks such as that of the North-east Atlantic under OSPAR. 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:
- 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.
- The implementation of management measures – management actions considered necessary to achieve the conservation objectives of a site.
- Site condition monitoring programmes – collecting the information necessary to determine progress towards a site's conservation objectives.
- 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 the Wight-Barfleur Reef SAC 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 in the Conservation Advice section. Further information is available on our Conservation advice webpages.
- 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 to be sensitive to pressures associated with fishing and 'licensable' activities.
- Both mobile and static gears are used in the site. UK and non-UK registered vessels have been active in the area, mainly using pots/traps and pelagic trawls, respectively.
- 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 the Marine Management Organisation's webpages.
- Licensable activities such as oil and gas exploration and production do not take place within Wight-Barfleur Reef SAC at present, however, there are three plugged and abandoned wells within the site.
- Any activities or future proposals would have to comply with Regulation 28 (Protection of European offshore marine sites and European sites) of The Conservation of Offshore Marine Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 (as amended).
- 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 industry advice webpages.
- There is one operational submarine cable which runs through the site from east to west.
- 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.
- A major English Channel shipping lane runs through the site longitudinally, plus various cruising routes traverse the site.
- 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 Wight-Barfleur Reef SAC are not considered likely to impact the protected feature of the site.
3. Site condition monitoring
Site condition monitoring surveys are yet to take place within this MPA. Further information will be made available under the Monitoring and Evidence 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 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.