Barra Fan and Hebrides Terrace Seamount MPA

 

Status: Nature Conservation Marine Protected Area (NCMPA)

 

Situated to the west of Scotland, adjacent to the boundary with Irish waters, The Barra Fan and Hebrides Terrace Seamount Nature Conservation MPA follows the seabed as it descends from the top of the Hebridean continental slope down into the deep Rockall Trough and beyond.

 

The MPA includes the Hebrides Terrace Seamount to the west of the site – a remnant of an ancient volcano. The seamount supports a diverse range of marine life, including cold-water corals and deep sea sponges. These seamount communities are considered to be Threatened and/or Declining by the OSPAR Commission across the North-east Atlantic, as are orange roughy (Hoplostethus atlanticus); a long-lived deep-water fish found associated with The Hebrides Terrace Seamount. The ‘Fan’ is a geological protected feature of the site that was created when a large build-up of sediments underwent a series of submarine landslides. These landslides have subsequently been modified by water currents, and were long ago gouged by icebergs grounding on the seabed during past ice ages.

 

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
Burrowed Mud (seapen and burrowing megafauna communities) Habitat Conserve in favourable condition
Seamount Communities Habitat Conserve in favourable condition
Offshore deep-sea muds Habitat Conserve in favourable condition
Offshore subtidal sands and gravels Habitat Conserve in favourable condition
Orange roughy Mobile species Conserve in favourable condition
Continental slope Large scale feature Conserve in favourable condition
Seamounts Large scale feature  Conserve in favourable condition
 Geomorphological features representative of The Barra Fan and The Peaches Slide Complex Key Geodiversity Areas:
iceberg ploughmark field, prograding wedges, continental slope turbidite canyons, slide deposits,  scour moat, continental slope, Hebrides Terrace Seamount
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.

 

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. 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 The Barra Fan and Hebrides Terrace Seamount NCMPA.  More detail can be found within the Relevant Documentation.


Relevant Documentation

The documents referred to below and any other historical documents relating to The Barra Fan and Hebrides Terrace Seamount NCMPA 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: October 2017

 

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

 

Site overview
Situated to the west of Scotland, adjacent to the boundary with Irish waters, The Barra Fan and Hebrides Terrace Seamount MPA follows the seabed from the top of the Hebridean continental slope as it descends into the deep Rockall Trough and beyond. The ‘Fan’ is a geological protected feature of the site that was created when a large build-up of sediments underwent a series of submarine landslides. These landslides have subsequently been modified by water currents, and were long ago gouged by icebergs grounding on the seabed during past ice ages. The Barra Fan is regarded as scientifically important because the morphology and sedimentary sequences have helped in furthering understanding of regional-scale palaeoceanographic changes as well as fluctuations in the extent of the last British Ice Sheet.
 
On the continental slope part of the MPA, mud, sand and gravel habitats are home to worms and other creatures that have adapted to living buried in and on the seabed. The base of the continental slope provides conditions for the establishment of burrowed mud habitat; specifically seapens and burrowing megafauna communities, which are considered Threatened and/or Declining across the North-east Atlantic by the OSPAR Commission. To the west of the site, the Hebrides Terrace Seamount rises to a height of almost 1km above the surrounding seabed and is thought to represent a remnant of an ancient volcano. The seamount supports a diverse range of marine life, including cold-water corals and deep sea sponges. These seamount communities are considered to be Threatened and/or Declining by the OSPAR Commission across the North-east Atlantic, as are orange roughy (Hoplostethus atlanticus); a long-lived deep-water fish found associated with The Hebrides Terrace Seamount.


The seamount is thought to be significant to the health of Scotland’s seas due to the effect it has on the movement of underwater currents, which bring a good supply of food to the area. The resulting rich diversity supports many fish species, which in turn attract larger marine animals, such as sharks and whales. Further detail on the evidence for this NCMPA can be found on the Evidence tab.

 

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

Site area:  4,373 km².

Site depth range:  Depth of the site ranges from 2341m below sea level at the lowest point of the Rockall Trough within this MPA, to 145m in the east of the site.

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

 

Site boundary description
On the Hebridean slope to the east of the MPA, the boundary captures the biological diversity of sediments that change with depth and include burrowed mud data points in the bathyal zone. To the west, the boundary has been drawn to encompass the full extent of The Hebrides Terrace Seamount in Scottish waters to support seamount communities and an orange roughy spawning aggregation. The area between the Hebridean continental slope and The Hebrides Terrace Seamount includes the geomorphological protected features of the site.

 

Evidence

 

Last updated: October 2017

 

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 Barra Fan and Hebrides Terrace Seamount 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/this survey provide direct evidence confirming the presence of the protected features within the site.

 

Survey and data gathering

  • Habitat survey of The Hebrides Terrace Seamount (2012) - On behalf of JNCC, Herriot-Watt University conducted habitat surveys of the Hebrides Terrace Seamount using a remotely operated vehicle. The habitat surveys were an extension to the university’s planned research programme to study the functional ecology of cold-water coral habitats.
     

Data analysis reports

  • EUSeaMap (2016) - Provides supporting information on the presence and extent of sedimentary habitats from a predictive seabed habitat map of European waters. 
  • Biotope analysis of Marine Scotland Science underwater footage from the Hebridean Slope (2014) - Analysis of underwater video footage from Marine Scotland Science Nephrops norvegicus stock assessment surveys confirmed the presence of offshore subtidal sands and gravels on the Hebridean slope.
  • Mapping habitats and biotopes from acoustic datasets (Barra Fan and Hebrides Terrace Seamount Area) (2014) - Full coverage multibeam data were processed and interpreted by the National Oceanographic Centre to generate a new seabed substrate layer for parts of the site. The resulting habitat map was classed to level 4 of the deep-water section of the Marine Nature Conservation Review habitat classification scheme and further supports the presence of sedimentary habitats within the site.
  • Analysis of seabed imagery from the Hebrides Terrace Seamount (2013) - Three remotely operated vehicle transects were surveyed in 2012, one across the summit and two down the eastern slope. High Definition video and photographic images were acquired, which were analysed by Cross et al., 2014 to determine the biological communities present and whether they were characteristic of the seamount communities MPA search feature. From the underwater footage, biological communities attributable to the MPA search feature were identified from the two eastern transects.
  • Report on the identification of Key Geodiversity Areas in Scotland’s seas (2013) - Provides information on the presence and extent of important geological/geomphological areas in Scotland’s seas, which includes The Barra Fan and Peaches Slide Complex Key Geodiversity Areas of relevance to this NCMPA.
  • Biotope analysis of archived stills from the Strategic Environmental Area 7 region of Scotland's seas (2011) - Hughes et al. (2014) characterised the biological diversity of the Hebridean continental slope based on archived stills data from 1988-1998. The findings indicate that five distinct biological zones with associated communities that change with depth on the slope and help to define the communities that characterise the protected features of the MPA.

Additional relevant literature

References for 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:

  • Henry, L. -A., Stehmann. M. F. W., De Clippele, L., Findlay, H. S., Golding, N. and Roberts, J. M. (2016). Seamount egg-laying grounds of the deep-water skate Bathyraja richardsoni. Journal of Fish Biology.
  • Henry, L. A., Vad. J., Findlay, H. S., Murillo, J., Milligan, R. & J. Murray Roberts (2014) Environmental variability and biodiversity of megabenthos on the Hebrides Terrace Seamount (Northeast Atlantic). Science Report, 4: 5589.
  • Peer-reviewed papers published based on the findings of the Remotely Operated Vehicle dives on the Hebrides Terrace Seamount in 2012. 

 

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.

 

Conservation Advice

 

Last updated: October 2017

 

Conservation objectives
Conservation objectives set out the desired state for the protected feature(s) of an MPA. As there is no direct evidence of damage to any of the protected features within The Barra Fan and Hebrides Terrace Seamount 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; and/or
  • Developing, proposing or assessing an activity, plan or project that may affect the protected features of the site

 

The conservation objective for the protected features of the MPA are:

Subject to natural change, conserve the burrowed mud, offshore deep-sea muds, offshore subtidal sands and gravels and seamount community features in favourable condition, such that their:

  • Extents are stable or increasing; and
  • 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 area of the continental slope and seamount in favourable condition such that the:

  • Extent, distribution and structure of the feature is maintained;
  • Characteristic biological communities and their use of the feature, for activities such as feeding, courtship, spawning and as nursery grounds, are maintained and not deteriorating; and
  • Processes supporting the feature are maintained.

 

Subject to natural change, conserve orange roughy in favourable condition, such that the:

  • Species is conserved or, where relevant, recovered to include the continued access by the species to resources provided by the MPA for, but not restricted to, feeding, courtship, spawning or use as nursery grounds;
  • Extent and distribution of any supporting features upon which the species is dependent is conserved; and
  • Structure and function of any supporting features, including any associated processes supporting the species within the MPA, is such as to ensure that the protected feature is in a condition which is healthy and not deteriorating.

 

Subject to natural change, conserve the iceberg ploughmark field, prograding wedges, continental slope turbidite canyons, slide deposits, scour moat, continental slope and Hebrides Terrace Seamount  geological and geomorphological interest features in favourable condition, such that it's:

  • 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 Barra Fan and Hebrides Terrace Seamount 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 Barra Fan and Hebrides Terrace Seamount 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 activities (line fishing, set netting and otter trawling); and
  • DECC area of possible development for oil and gas activity. 

 

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 work is available via the offshore MPA conservation advice webpage.

 

Activities and Management

 

Last updated: October 2017

 

Management status: Progressing towards being well managed

 

Progress is ongoing with the recommendation of fisheries management proposals to the European Commission, 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 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 The Barra Fan and Hebrides Terrace Seamount 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 JNCCs 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

  • There is evidence of mobile demersal effort within the MPA and UK and non-UK registered vessels have been active in the area.
  • The site falls outside the UKs 12 nautical mile limit and is to be exclusively managed under the EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). In accordance with Article 18 of the revised CFP, requests for management will be developed jointly between the UK Government and any Member States with a direct management interest in the area affected.
  • 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

  • There are currently no licensed activities taking place within The Barra Fan and Hebrides Terrace Seamount NCMPA. However, oil and gas blocks licenced  in the 29th licencing round overlap the east of the MPA,  and so may be subject to development in the future.
  • Licensable activities such as oil and gas exploration and production taking place or 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 features of this MPA.
  • 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

 

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.

 

Assessment of progress 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.

 

Monitoring

 

Last updated: October 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: October 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.

 

 

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