Scottish SAC's submitted to Europe

02 November 2012


On 31 October 2012, five new Special Areas of Conservation (SACs), including Hatton Bank, the largest ever marine SAC proposed within Europe, were submitted to the European Commission.   


Anton Dohrn Seamount, East Rockall Bank, Hatton Bank, Pobie Bank Reef and Solan Bank Reef are all now candidate SACs (cSACs). These areas will protect unique parts of Scotland’s seabed, including the fragile cold water coral reefs found on the seamount at Anton Dohrn, which was an active volcano back when dinosaurs still roamed the Earth. The seafloor in these areas is teeming with colourful life – pink coralline algae encrusts rocks, to which yellow sponges and the bright orange soft coral dead man’s fingers attach themselves and red sea spiders can be seen crawling around.


Further information on Hatton Bank, Pobie Bank Reef, Solan Bank Reef, East Rockall Bank and Anton Dohrn Seamount cSACs can be found on this website.  


Notes to editors:

  1. The EC Habitats Directive aims to conserve natural flora and fauna across the European Community. One of the measures to achieve this is by establishing a network of protected sites for rare, endangered, vulnerable or endemic species of plants and animals, and those which represent outstanding examples of habitats within Europe. The sites are known as Special Areas of Conservation (SACs).
  2. JNCC is responsible for identifying SACs under the EC Habitats Directive in the UK offshore area, and making recommendations to Defra for offshore waters off England and Wales, and, since April 2010, to Scottish Government for offshore waters off Scotland.  The UK offshore area lies between 12 and 200 nautical miles from the coast and out to the median line and UK Continental Shelf designated area.
  3. The first five offshore SACs were recommended to the European Commission on 31 August 2008 following a public consultation from December 2007 to March 2008. Ten offshore and inshore SACs and two Special Protection Areas (SPAs) for birds were recommended to the European Commission in August 2010 following a joint public consultation conducted by JNCC, Natural England and Countryside Council for Wales from November 2009 to March 2010.  The UK section of Dogger Bank in the North Sea was recommended to the European Commission on 26th August 2011. Pisces Reef Complex and Croker Carbonate Slabs in the Irish Sea and Wight-Barfleur Reef in the English Channel were submitted to the European Commission in August 2012. Five further SACs in the Scottish offshore region were submitted to the European Commission in September 2012. The number of SAC’s with marine components in the UK is now 107.
  4. Anton Dohrn Seamount is the deepest SAC in the UK. The seamount is approximately 1800m high with steep cliffs extend down to approximately 2400m. Anton Dohrn is a former volcano located on the west of Scotland, about 200km from the Outer Hebrides, and is the only seamount recommended as a SAC in the UK. The reefs support assemblages of sea cucumbers, brittlestars, cup corals, sponges, gorgonians (sea whips or sea fans) and other corals, with many of the assemblages found here being recorded in UK waters for the first time. The cold water coral Lophelia pertusa forms clumps of reef which occur at the top of the seamount support a rich assemblage of associated fauna including other corals, squat lobster and urchins.
  5. East Rockall Bank is located to the west of Scotland, about 320km west of the Outer Hebrides. It is located along the eastern flank of Rockall Bank geological feature where the slope descends steeply down to over 1000m and is cut by two canyons. The stony reef at the summit supports bryozoans and sponges as well as the cold water coral Lophelia pertusa which forms clumps of reef. Due to its depth, a range of species and habitats are found, many which have never previously been observed in the UK.  A rocky ledge of bedrock reef that runs the length of the eastern flank supports lace corals and sponges whilst the stony reef found below this further down the slope provides a substrate for corals and sponges.
  6. Hatton Bank is the largest SAC in the UK, at over 15,000km2 it is approximately 3,000km2 larger than the recently submitted Dogger Bank cSAC.  Hatton Bank is a large volcanic bank in the North-East Atlantic. The depth of the bank ranges from less than 500 to over 1000 meters. The site stretches nearly 500km, which is almost the distance between London and Edinburgh.  The hard substrates provided by the stony and bedrock reef on the site support a wide array of species. These include scleractinian corals, lace corals, black corals, soft corals and cup corals as well as seafans and sponges. Cold water coral reefs, made up of Lophelia pertusa and Madrepora oculata, are also present.
  7. Pobie Bank Reef is located in the North Sea, approximately 20km east of Shetland, Scotland. The reef is composed of a combination of stony and bedrock reef and in the central section of the reef there are very large, rugged bedrock outcrops. The reef provides a habitat to an extensive community of encrusting and robust sponges and bryozoans, including one rare bryozoan which is common in this site! This includes encrusting coralline algae, cup sponges, and bryozoans in the shallower areas; and small erect sponges, cup corals and brittlestars in the deeper areas. The site crosses the 12 nautical mile line and JNCC are progressing it jointly with Scottish Natural Heritage. 
  8. Solan Bank Reef is located approximately 50km north of Cape Wrath on the Scottish mainland. The reefs are characterised by encrusting fauna, mainly encrusting bryozoans and in the shallower areas, encrusting coralline algae. Also present are cup corals, including an as yet unrecognised species, brittlestars, a range of sponges, bryozoans, hydroids, soft coral, jewel anemones, foliose red algaes and kelp. The site crosses the 12 nautical mile line and JNCC are progressing it jointly with Scottish Natural Heritage. 
  9. Further information on offshore SACs can be found on our website.
  10. If you require higher resolution images please contact the     
  11. The Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) is the statutory adviser to Government on UK and international nature conservation, on behalf of the Council for Nature Conservation and the Countryside, the Countryside Council for Wales, Natural England and Scottish Natural Heritage. Its work contributes to maintaining and enriching biological diversity, conserving geological features and sustaining natural systems.   JNCC is also the statutory advisor for marine nature conservation for the UK offshore area (see note 2 above).


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