Dogger Bank MPA 


Status: Special Area of Conservation  (SAC)


The Dogger Bank is the largest sandbank in UK waters and extends into both Dutch and German waters. It is home to a variety of species which live both on and within the sandy sediment.


This includes segmented polychaete worms, shrimp like amphipods and small clams which burrow into the sand. Animals like hermit crabs, flatfish and starfish also live on top of the sandbank. The location of Dogger Bank in the open sea means that it is exposed to waves, which in turn prevents the shallower parts of the bank having any vegetation grow on it. Long thin silver sand eels can be found on the sides of the sandbank and are food for many seabirds, whales and dolphins and fish such as cod. The Dogger Bank MPA overlaps with a candidate Special Area of Conservation/Site of Community Importance that has been identified for the protection of Harbour porpoise – the Southern North Sea cSAC/SCI. For more information on this MPA, please see the Southern North Sea MPA Site Information Centre.


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: EU Habitats Directive 1992 transposed into UK law by the Conservation of Offshore Marine Habitats and Species Regulations 2017.


Protected features

Feature Feature type Conservation objective


1110 Sandbanks which are slightly covered by seawater all the time



Annex I Habitat*


Restore to favourable condition

*For the latest Annex I habitat resource figures, please see the link to the latest Habitats Directive Article 17 reporting in the Assessment tab.


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 SAC is provided in the Conservation Advice tab.

More information on the conservation objective for this SAC is provided in the Dogger Bank SAC conservation objective and advice on operations document listed below under 'Relevant  documentation'.


Site Timeline

The diagram below is a summary of the key milestones involved in the selection and designation of Dogger Bank.  More detail can be found within the Relevant Documentation below.



Relevant Documentation

The documents referred to below and any other historical documents relating to Dogger Bank 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 the JNCC SAC pages.





Last updated: October  2017


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


Site overview

The Dogger Bank is the largest single continuous expanse of shallow sandbank in UK waters which was formed by glacial processes before being submerged through sea level rise. It is located in the Southern North Sea, approximately 150km north east of the Humber Estuary.  The Dogger Bank region is an important location for the North Sea harbour porpoise population and as such they are included as a non-qualifying feature. Grey and common seals are known to visit the bank and are included as non-qualifying features at the site.


The southern area of the bank is covered by water seldom deeper than 20m and extends within the SAC in UK waters down to 35 - 40m deep. The bank structure slopes down to greater than 50m deep in UK, Dutch and German waters. Its location in open sea exposes the bank to substantial wave energy and prevents the colonisation of the sand by vegetation on the shallower parts of the bank. Sediments range from fine sands containing many shell fragments on top of the bank to muddy sands at greater depths supporting invertebrate communities, characterised by polychaete worms, amphipods and small clams within the sediment, and hermit crabs, flatfish, starfish and brittlestars on the seabed. Sand eels are an important prey resource found at the bank supporting a variety of species including fish, seabirds and cetacean.


Occasional, discrete areas of coarser sediments (including pebbles) were recorded on the bank, dominated by the soft coral Alcyonium digitatum known as dead man's fingers, the bryozoan sea chervil Alcyonidium diaphanum and serpulid worms. The SAC in UK waters adjoins the Dutch and German Dogger Bank SACs.  Further detail on the evidence for this SAC can be found on the Evidence tab.


Site location: Coordinates for this SAC can be found in the Natura 2000 Standard Data Form listed in the previous relevant documentation section.

Site area: 12,331km2- Dogger Bank is about 5 times the size of the Lake District National Park (2,292 km2).

Site depth range: The Dogger Bank ranges in depth from 13m - 58m below sea level.

Charting Progress 2 Biogeographic Region: Southern North Sea.


Site boundary description

The proposed boundary is a simple shape enclosing the minimum area necessary to ensure protection of the sandbank feature. Dogger Bank gradually extends from sandy sediments in less than 20m to deeper water with the greatest slope change around the 45-50m depth contour. To determine this extent in deeper water, JNCC have used information on the biological communities as well as physical information to assess which areas are part of the feature and host its assemblages, and subsequently the boundary was defined to include the shallow biological communities.   




Last updated: October 2017


The full overview of the range of data used to support site identification along with information on confidence in feature presence and extent is available in the Dogger Bank SAC  Selection Assessment. Some of the data has been collected through JNCC-funded or collaborative surveys. Data from these surveys provide direct evidence confirming the presence of the protected features within the site. Click on the map to go to the JNCC UK MPA Interactive map where you can view the data and find out more about the evidence underpinning this site.







Map displaying the MPA and relevant underpinning data.

Survey and data gathering

  • NCC/CEFAS Monitoring programme survey (2014) A pilot monitoring survey was carried out collaboratively, between the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) and the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas). The survey gathered ‘baseline’ data to help inform on the effectiveness of several proposed fishery management areas and to investigate changes in biological communities along a fishing pressure gradient. The survey was intended as a pilot survey to apply the principles of the UK Marine Biodiversity Monitoring R&D (MBMR&D) Programme at the Dogger Bank SAC. The survey report and survey blog are available.
  • JNCC/CEFAS survey of Dogger Bank (2008) - JNCC commissioned this survey to Cefas in order to gather data to support the delineation of a potential site boundary, and to characterise the biological communities present.   


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:

  • Eggleton, J., Murray, J., McIlwaine, P., Mason, C., Noble-James, T., Hinchen, H., Nelson, M., McBreen, F.,Ware,  S. and Whomersley, P. (2017).  Dogger Bank cSAC/SCI 2014 Monitoring R&D Survey Report (2017 - 02). JNCC/Cefas Report 11. - This report describes the findings of a dedicated survey which was carried out between 17th May and 6th June 2014 on the RV Cefas Endeavour (cruise CEND 10/14) to collect evidence to support the development of monitoring options specifically for the Dogger Bank SAC and, more generally, for other comparable offshore shallow sand and coarse sediment habitats.
  • Diesing, M., Ware, S., Foster-Smith, R., Stewart, H., Long, D., Vanstaen, K., Forster, R. and Morando, A. (2009). Understanding the marine environment - seabed habitat investigations of the Dogger Bank offshore draft SAC. JNCC Report 429. - Presents the findings of the JNCC contract 'Understanding the marine environment-seabed habitat investigations of the Dogger Bank offshore draft SAC'. It presents detailed geomorphological and biological information pertaining to the Dogger Bank along with discussion of the underlying context and justification for the proposed dSAC boundary. The report provided some of the necessary information to enable the JNCC to advise Defra as to the eligibility of the Dogger Bank as a SAC.


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:

  • Chapman, P. M. (1992). Pollution status of North Sea sediments - an international integrative study. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 91: 313-322 - This paper describes the pollution status of North Sea sediments based on results of sediment testing designed to test various methods (chemical and biological).The authors concluded that sediments offshore and at Dogger Bank are unpolluted. Lesions in bottom fish in such offshore areas cannot be attributed to sediment pollution in these areas, but they could be due to other factors such as exposure of plankton larvae to sea surface microlayer chemical contamination and toxicity.
  • Diesing, M., Stephens D., and Aldridge, J. (2013). A proposed method for assessing the extent of the seabed significantly affected by demersal fishing in the Greater North Sea. ICES Journal of Marine Science , 70:1085-1096 - Explores how vessel monitoring system (VMS) enable high-resolution and large-scale comparisons of fishing and natural disturbance. The authors found that for more than half the seabed in the English sector of the Greater North Sea, disturbance can be attributable to demersal fishing and exceeds natural disturbance based on data from the years 2006 to 2008. The imbalance between natural and fishing disturbance is greatest in muddy substrates and deep circalittoral habitats.
  • ICES (2011). Report of the International Bottom Trawl Survey Working (IBTSWG). ICES CM 2011/SSGESST:06. pp 237 - Produced by an Expert Group under the auspices of the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), the report compiles data from several cruises undertaken in the North Sea by different countries and research institutes, aiming to collect data on the distribution and relative abundance, and biological information of commercial fish.
  • Forewind (2013). Dogger Bank Creyke Beck, Environmental Statement Report. Available at: - This document constitutes the Environmental Statement (ES) for Dogger Bank Teesside A & B, presenting the findings of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). As such it does contain a plethora of information on Dogger Bank environmental, conditions including water, sediments and biological communities.
  • Kröncke, I. (2011). Changes in Dogger Bank macrofauna communities in the 20th century caused by fishing and climate. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 94: 234-245 - Examines the macrofauna communities on the Dogger Bank from the 1920s, the 1950s and the 1980s to the 2000s and identified five communities with similar in spatial distribution throughout the 20th century but differed in the abundance of dominant species. Both fishing impact and climate change are hypothesised as explaining the changes in the Dogger Bank macrofauna communities.
  • Wieking, G. and Kröncke, I. (2003). Macrofaunnal communities of the Dogger Bank (Central North Sea) in the late 1990: spatial distribution, species composition and trophic structure. Helgoland Marine Research, 57: 34 -16 - Describes the macrofauna composition at 28 stations on the Dogger Bank in 1996-1998.The authors found that five communities could be distinguished depending on the influence of different water masses, depth, type of sediment and food availability. The importance of sand lickers in the shallowest parts of the Dogger Bank hints at an important contribution of benthic primary production to the nutritional and energetic needs of the benthic community.


If you are aware of any additional information not referred to in any the Relevant Documentation listed on the main page, please contact JNCC.


Conservation Advice


Last updated: October 2017


The formal statutory advice for this site is available in the Regulation 18 Conservation Objectives and Advice on Operations  document and must be taken into consideration when undertaking an assessment of the effects which a planned activity can have on the site’s integrity and when making decisions regarding management and consenting of marine activities in or near the site. In addition, draft conservation advice is summarised below with further detail provided in the listed hyperlinked documents.


This draft conservation advice is currently being reviewed by JNCC in light of comments received. Following sign-off, it will become our formal conservation advice for this site, replacing the existing Regulation 18 advice package. This draft advice reflects the most up-to-date evidence held by JNCC (correct as of December 2016). In the meantime, therefore, it will continue to be available here until it is made formal. It should also be taken into consideration when undertaking an assessment of the effects which a planned activity can have on the site’s integrity and when making decisions regarding management and consenting of marine activities in or near the site.


The draft advice comprises of:

These elements together form JNCC’s conservation advice for this site and should be read in conjunction with each other.


Site Condition


Qualifying feature


View of status


Annex 1 Sandbank slightly covered by seawater all the time


Unfavourable condition
(based on a proxy assessment undertaken in Dec 2016)


JNCC considers the feature in the site to be in unfavourable condition. Our view is based on an assessment of the level of exposure of the site to pressures from human activities which are occurring within or near the site, and known sensitivity of the feature to those pressures. For further information on this assessment please contact us.


Conservation benefits

This site provides conservation benefits by affording protection to a range of sedimentary habitats and their associated species. In doing so, the site provides ecosystem services locally and to the wider marine environment. Further detail on these ecosystem services is available in the Supplementary Advice on Conservation Objectives Document.  However, in summary the site:

  • Supports a variety of fauna including wider populations of commercially important fish species e.g. Sandeels;
  • Enhances the availability of prey for fish, seabirds and marine mammals; and
  • Provides natural storage capacity for carbon.


Managing the site so as to restore the sandbank feature to favourable condition would enhance the provision of these benefits. Furthermore, the site would contribute more fully to:

  • Achieving Favourable Conservation Status of Annex 1 Sandbanks which are slightly covered by seawater all the time, which is one of the aims of the Council Directive 92/43/EEC on the Conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora (Habitats Directive) as transposed into the Conservation of Offshore Marine Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 (Offshore Regulations);
  • Achieving Good Environmental Status under the EC Marine Strategy Framework Directive; and
  • Resilience of the UK’s network of marine protected areas and wider marine biodiversity to impacts of climate change (2013 EU Guidance).


Conservation measures

Management effort should focus on restoring the sandbank’s extent and structure and function i.e. biological communities in order to meet the conservation objectives and ensure the site fully delivers its conservation benefits. Again further detail is available in the Supplementary Advice on Conservation Objectives.

Specifically, management actions should focus on:

  • Restoring biological communities. Sandbank communities may be capable of recolonising into those areas occupied by infrastructure and artificial substrate were these to be removed as part of their decommissioning. The restoration of the sandbank’s extent and structure and function is contingent on a reduction in the overall footprint of infrastructure and artificial substrate within the site;
  • Minimising anthropogenic disturbance of the biological communities within the site, in particular the populations of Ocean quahog and Sandeel, including their nursery grounds. This action could be achieved by limiting:

          o   the removal of sediment from the site;

          o   physical impacts on the sediment and fauna; and

          o   the introduction of invasive non-native species. For further advice on non-native species please visit our webpage

  • Restricting the introduction of contaminants to ensure compliance with water and sediment quality thresholds; and
  • Minimising any impediment to the natural hydrodynamic processes that support the feature.


We recommend public authorities assess the cumulative risk to achieving the conservation objectives from all those activities occurring in or near the site, and implement appropriate management measures to support the site’s restoration, particularly through those actions listed above.


The operation categories in Table 1 below are those which JNCC consider capable of adversely affecting site integrity (were they to occur), presenting a risk to the recovery of the feature. The broad pressures to which the feature is sensitive are also listed. JNCC recognise that the simple presence of these operations would not necessarily adversely affect the site. Users are therefore directed to further detail in the Advice on Operations workbook available at the top of the tab, which sets out the evidence explaining how human activities and their associated pressures can affect the features, and includes guidance on how to interpret the information to support an assessment of likely significant impact.


Table 1. Broad pressures to which the feature is sensitive and operations which are capable of impacting the feature.


Broad pressures


Operations (broad activity categories)


Hydrological changes

Physical damage

Physical loss

Biological pressures


Aggregate dredging



Commercial shipping

Oil and gas operations



For more information on human activities occurring in or near the site and ongoing management, please see the Activities and Management tab.


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. Ongoing site condition monitoring work will be required to conclude with confidence as to the degree to which the site is moving towards or achieving its conservation objectives. A baseline condition monitoring survey was undertaken in 2014 (Eggleton et al., 2017).


This site forms part of the UKs contribution to the OSPAR commissions network of MPAs, Europe’s Natura 2000 network and the Emerald network established under the Bern Convention. As the UK is a signatory to 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 Dogger Bank SAC around each of the 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 feature of the site. The protected feature of the site is considered to be sensitive to pressures associated with fishing and ‘licensable’ activities.



  • 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.
  • Dogger Bank extends across the UK, Dutch, German and Danish sectors of the North Sea and both the Netherlands and Germany have also designated their areas of the bank as SACs. The respective Member States governments have been working through the Dogger Bank Steering Group to develop fisheries measures recommendations. Stakeholders have been actively involved in this process through the North Sea Regional Advisory Council (RAC). A fisheries joint management proposal was agreed in early 2017 and the next step will be the start of the formal six-month Joint Recommendation process submission to the European Commission which is likely to take place over 2017.
  • The Marine Management Organisation are the lead authority regarding the implementation of, and compliance with, any measures to managing fishing activity. Further information on progress is available via MMO’s web pages.


Licensable activities

  • At the moment, a considerable number of oil and gas developments overlap this MPA, including many fields, pipelines, wells and associated infrastructure. Decommissioning activities in relation to these activities are likely to take place in the near future.
  • Renewables – Creyke Beck and Teesside A and B wind farms were granted consent by the Secretary of State in 2015 and pre-construction activities started in 2015.
  • Aggregate extraction – a proposal for licensing 2 areas for aggregate extraction overlaps with this MPA. Aggregate extraction activity is not thought to be underway at the current time but these areas may be subject to activity in the future.
  • Any future proposals related to licensable activities would have to comply with Article 6(3) of the EU Habitats Directive 1992, which is transposed into UK law by the Conservation of Offshore Marine Habitats and Species Regulations 2017.
  • JNCC 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 industries advice webpage


Telecommunications cables

  • Four telecommunications cables 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

A baseline condition monitoring survey was undertaken in 2014 (reported in Eggleton et al., 2017). Further information is provided in the Monitoring tab.


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 ‘recover’ conservation objective based on the findings of a vulnerability assessment (i.e. exposure to pressures from ongoing activities to which the protected feature of the site is considered sensitive). Monitoring data would improve our confidence in this assessment. Further information will be provided under the Assessment tab as it becomes available.





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.


A research and development monitoring survey of the Dogger Bank SAC was conducted in May\June 2014. The aims of the survey were to:

  • Collect data inside and outside of proposed fisheries management measures to establish the first point in a time series to monitor changes in the habitats over time;
  • Collect data over a gradient of surface abrasion to better understand the relationship between surface abrasion and the habitats in the MPA; and
  • Conduct a gear comparison study to compare different grab samplers which have been used  to collect macrofaunal and sediment data in the MPA to understand how comparable different datasets are. 


Links to the cruise report and data analysis report will be provided here when they have been published.




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.


Every six years, Member States are required under Article 17 of the EU Habitats Directive to report on the Conservation Status of Annex I habitats and Annex II species on the Habitats Directive.  The assessments should consider the habitat or species both within the Natura 2000 network and in the wider sea.  The latest report was submitted by the UK in 2013 and provided a second assessment of the conservation status of relevant habitats and species within UK marine waters during 2007-2012. The next report is for the period 2013-2018 and is due in 2019; information on the condition of features within SACs will make a contribution to this report. 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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