Hatton-Rockall Basin MPA

 

Status: Nature Conservation Marine Protected Area (NCMPA)Click to link to the interactive map

 

The Hatton-Rockall Basin MPA is situated in a deep-water basin to the far west of Scotland. Water depth at the site is over 1 km and the muddy sediments present support a range of species adapted to life at this depth.

 

The site is designated to protect unusual aggregations of deep-sea sponges – an OSPAR Threatened and/or Declining habitat. The MPA also includes protection for offshore deep-sea muds and a series of unique geological features known as polygonal faults. Polygonal faults are cracks in the seafloor, similar in appearance to those on a sun scorched desert.

 

More detailed site information can be found on the Summary tab below.

Map displaying MPA boundary and

associated protected feature data.

Visit the JNCC MPA Mapper to further view

and explore data for this MPA.

 

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

 

Protected Features:

Features Feature Type Conservation Objectives
Deep-sea sponge aggregations Habitat Conserve in Favourable Condition
Offshore deep sea muds Habitat Conserve in Favourable Condition
Sediment drifts and polygonal faults representative of Hatton Bank (and adjacent sea floor) Key Geodiversity Area. Geomorphological Conserve in Favourable Condition

 

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 page and in JNCC’s MPA mapper and the evidence underpinning this can be viewed in the evidence tab below.

 

Conservation Objectives
The overarching conservation objectives for the designated features of all protected sites in UK offshore waters is to ensure they either 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.


Specific information on the conservation objectives relating to this NCMPA is provided in the Conservation Advice tab.


Site Timeline

The diagram below is a summary of the key milestones involved in the selection and designation of Hatton-Rockall Basin MPA. More detail can be found within the relevant documentation listed below.

NCMPA SIC timeline v0.2


Relevant Documentation

The documents referred to below and any other historical documents relating to Hatton-Rockall Basin 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 Nature Conservation MPA site selection process is available on the JNCC NCMPA pages.

 



 

Site overview
The Hatton-Rockall Basin MPA is situated in a deep-water basin to the far west of Scotland. The site is located between Hatton Bank to the west and Rockall Bank to the east. Water depth at the site is over 1 km.

The site is designated to protect unusual aggregations of deep-sea sponges, which are an OSPAR Threatened and/or Declining habitat. Two different types of deep-sea sponge aggregations are known to be present; aggregations dominated by encrusting sponges and Bird’s nest sponge (Pheronema carpenteri) fields. The Bird’s nest sponge fields within the site are the only known examples to occur in UK waters. The encrusting sponge aggregation is typified by encrusting grey sponges living on boulders and mud substrata. Both types of deep-sea sponge aggregations act as biodiversity hotspots, with a range of other species associated with them. For the Bird’s nest sponge fields, these include ascidians, formaniferans, polychaetes and burrowing anemones, while the encrusting sponge aggregations include anemones, ascidians, crinoids and ophiuroids. The seabed in the area is littered with spicules – spiney remnants of dead sponges - that inhibit the establishment of burrowing animals but allows surface-dwelling species to thrive. For example, beds of brittlestars are present, which live on the surface of the seabed filtering food from passing currents.

Offshore deep sea mud habitat is predicted to be present throughout the Hatton-Rockall Basin MPA and is another of the site’s protected features. It is predicted that there are two different types of offshore deep-sea mud habitat in the MPA. The majority of it is believed to be “Atlantic mid bathyal mud and sandy mud”, but this encompasses a patch of “Atlantic upper bathyal mud and sandy mud”. There is little information on the level of biological diversity and composition of communities supported by the offshore deep-sea mud habitats in the MPA, however limited survey data support the presence of habitat that is dominated by different species of burrowing anemone as well as echinoderms such as starfish, sea cucumbers and sea urchins.

A series of unique geological features known as polygonal faults are also included for protection within the site. Polygonal faults are cracks in the seafloor, similar in appearance to those on a sun scorched desert. Usually polygonal faulting occurs below the seafloor, but the faults in the Hatton-Rockall Basin are present on the surface of the seabed, making this a unique example of the feature. The hard edges of these cracks may facilitate the aggregations of deep-sea sponges by providing a suitable surface for settlement. Along with the polygonal faults, sediment drifts are also protected within the Hatton-Rockall Basin MPA, as it is a representative feature of the Hatton Bank (and adjacent sea floor) Key Geodiversity Area.

 

Site location: Coordinates for this NCMPA can be found in the Designation Order listed in the Relevant Documentation.

Site area: 1,256 km2 which makes it larger than the county of Moray at 1,233 km2.

Site depth range: The depth of the MPA ranges from a maximum of 1200 m below sea level to 1080 m below sea level.

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

Site boundary description
The site is a simple polygon drawn to include all verified records of deep-sea sponges within the entire Hatton-Rockall Basin. The boundary has also been drawn to incorporate significant areas of both types of offshore deep-sea muds present in the region.

 

The 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.

 

 

Last updated 02/2017

Site specific data
There is a range of data that underpin this MPA. 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 Hatton-Rockall Basin MPA Data Confidence Assessment. JNCC will be adding relevant survey data for this MPA to the 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

  • Survey of Darwin Mounds and North West Rockall - 2011
    The cruise was part of the MAREMAP initiative (UK Marine Environmental Mapping Programme) and was a collaboration of multiple organisations including JNCC, Plymouth University and the National Oceanography Centre. The main aim of the survey was to use acoustic and imagery data to perform benthic habitat mapping in relation to human activity. The survey identified bird’s nest sponge aggregations, encrusting sponge aggregations and offshore deep-sea mud habitats.
  • 2006 Strategic Environmental Asessment (SEA) - JNCC RV Franklin Survey - 2006
    The Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) surveys were commissioned by the Department of Trade and Industry (now Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC)). These surveys, in which JNCC collaborated, collected multibeam and underwater imagery data from areas off the north and west coasts of Scotland. In 2006, the survey visited the polygonal faults in the site and recorded deep-sea sponge aggregations and mud habitats.

 

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

  • Application of the OSPAR definition of deep-sea sponge aggregations – 2014
    JNCC commissioned a contract to apply the OSPAR definition of deep-sea sponge aggregations to verify suspected records of the habitat in UK waters. Survey data from this site was included in that contract and supported with high confidence the presence of Pheronema carpentari fields and encrusting sponge dominated aggregation types of deep-sea sponge aggregations
  • Analysis of biological data from the JC60 survey - 2014
    The data from the National Oceanography Centre, University of Plymouth and JNCC survey of Darwin Mounds and North West Rockall, were analysed and help support the presence of offshore deep-sea muds and deep-sea sponge aggregations in Hatton-Rockall Basin MPA.
  • Report of the identification of Key Geodiversity Areas in Scotland's seas - 2013
    This report helped support information on the presence and extent of important geological/geomphological areas in Scotland’s seas, which includes The Hatton Bank (and adjacent sea floor) Key Geodiversity Area of relevance to this NCMPA.
  • EUSeaMap - (Last updated 2016)
    Provides supporting information on the presence and extent of sedimentary features from a predictive seabed habitat map of European waters.

 

References for further supporting scientific literature consulted during the identification of this site can be found in the Hatton-Rockall Basin MPA Data Confidence Assessment.

 

Additional relevant literature
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:

  • Oliver, G.P. and Drewery, J. (2013). New species of chemosymbiotic clams (Bivalvia: Vesicomyidae and Thyasiridae) from a putative ‘seep’ in Hatton-Rockall Basin, north-east Atlantic. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, 94: 389-403.
    The paper describes two new species of bivalves which were discovered in The Hatton-Rockall Basin from around 1180 – 1200 m deep.

 

Knowledge gaps
If you are aware of any additional information not referred to in any of the relevant documentation listed on the main page, please contact JNCC.

 

 

Last updated 02/2017

MPA Conservation Advice

 

Conservation objectives
Conservation objectives set out the desired state for the protected features of an MPA. As there is no direct evidence of damage to any of the protected features within the Hatton-Rockall Basin Nature Conservation MPA, the agreed policy approach states that such features should be allocated a conservation objective of ‘conserve in favourable condition’, noting that there is uncertainty in feature condition.

The conservation objectives for the protected features of the MPA are useful if you are:

  • planning measures to conserve the site and its protected features;
  • monitoring the condition of the protected features; or
  • developing, proposing or assessing an activity, plan or project that may affect the protected features of the site


The Conservation Objectives for the protected features of the MPA are:

Subject to natural change, conserve the deep-sea sponge aggregations and offshore deep-sea muds in favourable condition, such that:

  • their extent is stable or increasing; and
  • their structures and functions, quality, and the composition of their characteristic biological communities are such as to ensure that they are in a condition which is healthy and not deteriorating.

 

Subject to natural change, conserve the polygonal faults and sediment drift geomorphological interest features in favourable condition, such that:

  • their extent, component elements and integrity are maintained;
  • their structure and functioning are unimpaired; and
  • their surface remains sufficiently unobscured for the purposes of determining with the conditions in the points above

 

More information regarding the conservation objectives for the protected features of the Hatton-Rockall Basin MPA is available in the Designation Order. JNCC is working to provide more detailed advice on the relatively broad, high level conservation objectives for the features listed above. This supplementary advice will be posted here as and when it becomes available

 

Advice on operations 

Section 127 of the Marine & Coastal Access Act (2009) states that JNCC may provide guidance regarding matters capable of damaging or otherwise affecting the protected features of a NCMPA. JNCC has contributed to the development of an online Features, Activities, Sensitivities Tool (FeAST), which is intended to help public authorities, industry and regulators determine which activities are capable of affecting the protected features of a MPA.

FeAST reflects our current understanding of the interactions between activities, pressures and features within NCMPAs. The tool highlights that activities can give rise to a range of pressures, to which the protected features of the MPA may be sensitive and may therefore be capable of affecting them. JNCC and Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) have also produced more specific guidance on the impacts of different fishing gears on the protected features of Nature Conservation MPAs. These are available on our Fisheries Management Guidance Documents webpage

The activities taking place within the Hatton-Rockall Basin MPA that are considered capable of affecting the protected features of the site are as follows and have been taken from the Management Options Paper for the site:

  • Fishing (although note data available do not specify the type of gear employed by fishing vessels in the region)
  • Installation and maintenance of telecommunications cables

JNCC provides a list of activities occurring within the site and information on activity management within the Activities and Management tab. JNCC has provided this to aid the cumulative assessment of impacts of human activities within the site.

The information contained within FeAST, the fisheries management guidance, and the activities and management tab are useful if you are:

  • Carrying out any activity that may impact the protected features of the site and need to find out how to operate within the law
  • an authority providing advice on specific proposals
  • an authority responsible for putting management measures in place

Our scientific understanding of the ecology of the protected features of the site and how activities can affect them may change over time. Similarly the activities taking place within the site may also change over time. JNCC’s conservation advice will be kept under review and will be periodically updated to reflect this. Further information on JNCC's conservation advice is available via our offshore MPA conservation advice webpage.

 

Last Updated: October 2016

 

Management status: Progressing towards being well-managed.

 

Fishing activities within the site are managed under the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission. 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 and the Emerald network established under the Bern Convention. As the UK is a member of the OSPAR commission, JNCC are committed to ensuring that the OSPAR MPA network is 'well-managed’ by 2020.

JNCC consider ‘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 Hatton-Rockall Basin NCMPA around each of these four stages in the MPA management cycle:

 

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 tab.
  • JNCC are in the process of improving our MPA conservation advice packages. Further information is available on our conservation advice pages.
  • Spatial information on the presence and extent of the protected feature of this MPA is available via JNCC’s MPA mapper.
  • JNCC are in the process of developing downloadable MPA data packages where appropriate permissions to share datasets are in place.

 

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

  • The MPA lies outside of UK fishery limits and therefore fishing activity and its associated Vessel Monitoring System data are managed by the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC). Evidence of fishing activity taking place within the region of the MPA is limited, although non-UK fishing vessels are known to be active.
  • Hatton-Rockall Basin NCMPA is situated in a "new bottom fishing area" under current NEAFC regulations. Any proposed new fishing activity would require an environmental assessment to show damage would not be caused to Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems (VMEs), which in this case constitutes one of the protected features of the site: Deep-sea sponge aggregations.
  • An area in the north of Hatton-Rockall Basin NCMPA is closed to bottom fisheries under NEAFC Rec 19 2014 to protect Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems (VMEs), namely deep-sea sponge aggregations. ICES have since recommended an extension to the existing closed area to include new records of deep-sea sponge aggregations.

 

Licensable activities

  • No licensable activities are currently known to take place within this MPA.
  • Should interest be expressed by developers in the future, a legal framework for consenting licensed activities would need to be developed.
  • Further information on JNCCs role in the provision of advice for licensed activities in the UK offshore area is available on JNCC's offshore industries advice webpage.

 

Telecommunications cables

  • One telecommunications cable currently crosses through the MPA.
  • 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.

 

Site condition monitoring
Site condition monitoring surveys are yet to take place within this MPA. Further information will be made available under the monitoring tab in due course.

 

Progression 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 tab as it becomes available.

 

 

 

Last updated 02/2017

MPA Monitoring

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 02/2017

MPA Assessment

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 predefined 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. They include the second cycle of the Conservation Status Assessment reports under the EU Habitats Directive, Charting Progress 2 (CP2) and the OSPAR Quality Status Report (QSR). 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.

Under the UK Marine & Coastal Access Act (2009), JNCC is required to report to Ministers on the degree to which the conservation objectives of the protected features of Nature Conservation MPAs (NCMPAs) have been achieved.  Every 6 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. 

The assessments of features within MPAs will also feed into six yearly reports on the state of the marine environment under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD), which aims to achieve Good Environmental Status (GES) by 2020.

 

 

 

Image Gallery