North-west Orkney MPA

 

Status: Nature Conservation Marine Protected Area (NCMPA)

 

Newly hatched sandeel larvae from this MPA are exported by currents to sandeel grounds around Shetland and south of the Moray Firth.

 

The MPA also affords protection to several geomorphological features; the study of which can help improve our understanding of the relationships between currents and seabed sediments.

 

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

 

 

 

 

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
Sandeels Mobile species Conserve in favourable condition
Sand banks, sand wave fields and sediment wave fields representative of the Fair Isle Strait Marine Process Bedforms Key Geodiversity Area. Geomorphological feature 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.

 

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 North-west Orkney. More detail can be found within the Relevant Documentation listed below.


Relevant Documentation

The documents referred to below and any other historical documents relating to North-west Orkney were produced during the selection and designation process and therefore may be out of date.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.

 

 



Summary

 

Last updated: June 2017

 

The information for this site summary was adapted from documents listed in the Relevant Documentation section and incorporates and further information gathered since these documents were produced.

 

Site overview
The MPA is a shallow area lying to the north and west of the Orkney Isles on the Scottish continental shelf. The area is considered important as an export ground for sandeels - a type of burrowing fish that forms a critical component of many North Sea food webs. The area is characterised by a mixed ground type (areas of rough substrate within the areas of sediment) which make it suitable for sandeel colonisation. This may also account for the patchiness of the larval distribution. The MPA plays an important role in supporting wider populations of sandeels in Scottish waters. Specifically, newly hatched sandeel larvae from this region are exported by currents to sandeel grounds around Shetland and the Moray Firth. This is supported by a time series of data on larval abundance that date back to the 1950s, illustrating the continued importance of this area as an export ground for sandeels. The MPA also includes protection for geomorphological features representative of the Fair Isle Strait Marine Process Bedforms Key Geodiversity Area. These shelf tidal bedform features such as the sediment wave fields, sand wave fields and sand banks are active and are maintained under a specific range of tidal current conditions. It is thought that study of these features can help improve our understanding of the relationships between currents and seabed sediments.

 

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

Site area: 4,365 km2 making it roughly twice the size of the Isle of Lewis and Harris in the Outer Hebrides.

Site depth range: 12 m below sea level to 216 m below sea level further away from the coast.

Charting Progress 2 Biogeographic Region: Scottish Continental Shelf.

 

Site boundary description
The boundary of the MPA has been drawn to focus on the greatest density of newly emergent sandeel larvae in the region following consideration of newly hatched larval data, predicted larval dispersal modelling and the presence of suitable sediments for sandeel colonisation.

 

Evidence

 

Last updated: February 2017

 

There is a range of data that underpin this NCMPA. 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 North-west Orkney NCMPA Data Confidence Assessment. JNCC will be adding relevant survey data for this MPA to our MPA interactive map in due course.

Some of the data for this NCMPA 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 feature within the site.

 

Survey and data gathering

  • Marine Scotland Science Survey Trawls (1986 - 1991) - This is a collation of historic trawl surveys completed by Marine Scotland Science recording the occurrence of sandeels across the extent of the MPA. Data from these surveys have been analysed and reported through Wright & Bailey (1996), Procter et al (1996) and Wright et al (2000) (see References and additional relevant literature below).

 

Data analysis reports

  • Spatial patterns and trends in abundance of larval Ammodytidae from Continuous Plankton Recorder (CPR) surveys of the North Sea (1950-2005) (2013) - This study (Lynam et al. 2013) analysed data gathered and stored by the Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science (SAHFOS) In the CPR database. The data is gathered from continuous plankton recorders attached to commercial trawlers. This data was used to show the mean abundance of sandeel larvae.
  • The influence of sediment type on the distribution of the lesser sandeel Ammodytes marinus (2000) - Particle Size Analysis data from British Geological Survey samples collected in the area between 1973 and 1980 were analysed by Wright et al. (2000) to assess suitability for sandeel colonisation. Seven of nine records from the site were considered suitable for sandeels; these occurred in the south-west and eastern area of the site.
  • Modelling the transport of larval sandeels on the north-west European shelf (1998) - Young sandeel transport in the North Sea was predicted by Proctor et al. (1998) using data on sandeel spawning locations, age and hatching time combined with a model of ocean currents over a 39-year period. The study showed that sandeel larvae from North-west Orkney MPA may disperse widely across the North Sea.
  • Timing of hatching in Ammodytes marinus from Shetland waters and its significance to early growth and survivorship (1996) - The growth and survival of sandeels was examined using otolith microstructure in this study. The study supports the extensive export of sandeel larvae from the MPA to sandeel grounds around Shetland and south of the Moray Firth.

 

References and additional relevant literature
Further supporting scientific literature consulted during the identification of this site can be found in the Data Confidence Assessment. 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.

  • Lynam, C.P., Pitois, S., Halliday, N.C., Van Damme, C., Wright, P.J. and Edwards, M. (2013). Spatial patterns and trends in abundance of larval Ammodytidae from Continuous Plankton Recorder surveys of the North Sea: 1950 – 2005. ICES Journal of Marine Science, doi:10.1093/icesjms/fst006.
  • Proctor, R., Wright, P.J. and Everitt, A. (1998). Modelling the transport of larval sandeels on the north-west European shelf. Fisheries Oceanography, 7 (3-4): 347-354.
  • Wright, P.J. and Bailey, M.C. (1996). Timing of hatching in Ammodytes marinus from Shetland waters and its significance to early growth and survivorship. Marine Biology, 126 (1): 143-152.

 

Knowledge gaps
If you are aware of any additional data or relevant scientific papers for this site not listed in the Relevant Documentation, including the North-west Orkney MPA Data Confidence Assessment, please contact JNCC.

 

Conservation Advice

 

Last updated: February 2017

 

Conservation objectives

Conservation objectives set out the desired state for the protected feature(s) of an MPA. As there is direct evidence to suggest the ongoing persistence of the MPA as being important for sandeel export, in line with the agreed policy approach the sandeels protected feature of the MPA has been allocated a conservation objective of ‘conserve in favourable condition’. The geodiversity features have the same conservation objective, but note there is uncertainty in the condition of the features.

 

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; and/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 sandeels in favourable condition, such that: the

  • Quality and extent of its habitat is stable or increasing; and
  • Population structure allows numbers to be maintained or increased.

 

Subject to natural change, conserve the sediment wave fields, sand banks and sand wave fields representative of The Fair Isle Strait Marine Process Bedforms Key Geodiversity Area in favourable condition, such that their:

  • Extent, component elements and integrity are maintained;
  • Structure and functioning are unimpaired; and
  • 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 North-west Orkney 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 high-level 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 the Fisheries Management Guidance Documents webpage. For more detailed sensitivity information on the communities that comprise the features within the site, please use the search function on the MarLIN webpage to access updated sensitivity assessments.

 

The activities taking place within the North-west Orkney 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:

  • telecommunication cable; and 
  • licensed activities (renewables).

 

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; and/or
  • 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.

 

Activities and Management

 

Last updated: June 2017

 

Management status: Considered well managed

 

Regular larval surveys took place within this MPA between 1950 and 2005, indicating that persistent numbers of sandeel larvae are exported from this MPA. Given that activities currently taking place are not considered to affect sandeels within this MPA, JNCC consider sandeels to be in favourable condition.

 

This site forms part of the UKs 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 sites 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 North West Orkney 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 the 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 feature of the site. The protected feature of the site (sandeels) are not considered to be sensitive to any activities currently taking place within or adjacent to this MPA. A brief justification for each of the major activity types taking place is provided below:

 

Fisheries

  • Several different fisheries currently exist within the MPA but none of these are currently considered likely to affect sandeels (see JNCC sandeels fisheries management guidance). Furthermore, the MPA overlaps the Sandeel Area 5 and 7 management units, for which a zero Total Allowable Catch (TAC) has been set and so no targeted sandeel fishery can currently take place within the region.
  • Marine Scotland are the lead authority regarding the implementation of, and compliance with, any measures to managing fishing activity. Further information on progress is available via Marine Scotland’s web pages.

 

Licensable activities

  • Whilst ‘licensable’ activities such as oil and gas exploration and production do not take place within North West Orkney at present, any future proposals 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 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 sites conservation objectives. JNCC consider 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 feature of this MPA.
  • The MPA overlaps with the renewables areas OWN1 and WN2 identified in the Draft Sectoral Marine Plans that formed part of the Planning Scotland Seas consultation.
  • For further information, see Marine Scotland’s draft MPA management handbook and Marine Scotland’s guidance for marine license applications
  • Further information on JNCCs role in the provision of advice for licensed activities in the UK offshore area is available on JNCCs offshore industries advice webpage

 

Telecommunications cables

  • Three telecommunications cables currently cross 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

Regular larval surveys took place within this MPA between 1950s and 2005, indicating that persistent numbers of sandeel larvae are exported from this MPA. Given that activities currently taking place are not considered to affect sandeels within this MPA, JNCC consider sandeels to be in favourable condition within this MPA.

 

Assessment of progress towards conservation objectives

Evidence from regular larval surveys taking place between the 1950s and 2005 suggests this sandeels as the protected feature of this MPA may already be achieving its conservation objective. Further information will be provided under the assessment tab as it becomes available.

 

Monitoring

 

Last updated: February 2017

 

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.

Assessment

 

Last updated: February 2017

 

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

These images show examples of features that are present in the North-west Orkney NCMPA.

 

 

 

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