Hatton Bank MPA


Status: Candidate Special Area of Conservation (cSAC)Click to link to the interactive map


Hatton Bank is a large volcanic bank, situated in the Atlantic North-West Approaches, towards the western extent of the UK Continental Shelf. It is an elongate, arc-shaped bank, stretching nearly 500km in length and rising up to 1 km above the surrounding seafloor.


The vast size and topographic complexity of the Hatton Bank supports a wide diversity of biological communities, each associated with different seafloor structures and substratum types. The bedrock, cobbles and coral rubble are home to rich coral gardens and deep-sea sponge aggregations, and the distinct pinnacles and mounds support elaborate cold-water coral reefs.

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


Map displaying the MPA boundary

View and download spatial data for this MPA

on the JNCC UK MPA interactive map.


Legislation behind the designation: EU Habitats Directive 1992 transposed into UK law by the Offshore Marine Conservation (Natural Habitats &c.) Regulations 2007 (as amended)


Protected Features:

Features Feature Type Conservation Objectives
1170 Reefs Annex I habitat


to Favourable Condition


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 cSAC 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 Bank cSAC. More detail can be found within the relevant documentation listed below.


 1The North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission.  Further information on the management measures is provided under the Activities and Management tab below.

Relevant documentation

The documents referred to below and any other historical documents relating to the Hatton Bank cSAC were produced during the selection and designation process and therefore may be out of date.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.



Site overview
Hatton Bank is a large volcanic bank, situated in the Atlantic North-West Approaches, towards the western extent of the UK Continental Shelf.  The water depth across the bank ranges from less than 500m on the northern part of the bank, to over 1000m at the base. At its south-eastern tip, an igneous complex called Lyonesse forms a topographic high, rising to 520m below sea level, some 350m shallower than the surrounding bank.

The vast size and topographic complexity of the Hatton Bank supports a wide diversity of biological communities, each associated with different geomorphological structures and substratum types present on the bank. Much of the seabed on Hatton Bank comprises coarse sandy sediment; however the bank also supports extensive areas of bedrock reef (particularly on the ridges along the top of the bank), as well as many areas of stony reef. Iceberg ploughmarks, a variant of stony reef that are shaped by the movement of icebergs during the last ice age, have also been recorded within the cSAC.

The hard substrata provided by the boulders, cobbles and bedrock reef support a rich diversity of species, including scleractinian corals, stylasterids (‘lace’ corals), antipatharians (‘black’ corals), soft corals, cup corals and gorgonian sea fans; as well as a range of sponges; sessile sea cucumbers; anemones and brachiopods. The presence of Coral gardens  has been confirmed on the bedrock, cobbles and coral rubble on Hatton Bank within the cSAC boundary. Deep-sea sponge aggregations  have also been confirmed within the site boundary, comprising high densities of vase-shaped glass sponges. Both of these habitats are considered to be Threatened and/or Declining across the North-east Atlantic by the OSPAR Commission.

Primarily found in the southern region (including Lyonesse) and across the north-west Hatton Bank outcrops, the elaborate cold-water coral reefs are associated with pinnacles and mounds, and can be tens of metres in height and hundreds of metres wide. Their intricate structure is formed by both the Lophelia pertusa  and Madrepora oculata species, which in association with the surrounding dead coral framework support a range of associated fauna. Lophelia pertusa reefs are also considered to be Threatened and/or Declining across the North-east Atlantic by OSPAR.

Further detail on the evidence for this cSAC can be found on the Evidence tab.

Site location:  Coordinates for this cSAC can be found in the Natura 2000 Standard Data Form listed in the Relevant Documentation.

Site area:  15,694 km2

Site depth range:  The shallowest area of the MPA is approximately 460m below sea level, and the deepest section is 1740m below sea level.

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

Site boundary description
Due to the size of the Hatton Bank and the limited number of scientific surveys undertaken in this area, survey data is not comprehensive across the full extent of the site.  However, JNCC consider that there is sufficient up to date information with which to delineate a scientifically valid boundary that encompasses the known records of the reef feature on Hatton Bank. Data to inform the boundary is derived from a number of different sources, as summarised under the Evidence tab.   

Information for this site summary was adapted from the SAC Selection Assessment Document and incorporates any further information gathered since this document was produced. Please refer to this document in the relevant documentation section for further details and information sources.  Further information on JNCC’s conservation advice work is available here.



Site specific data
There is a range of data that underpin this cSAC. 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 Bank SAC Selection Assessment Document.  JNCC will be adding relevant survey data for this MPA to the JNCC interactive MPA map in due course.

Some of the data for this cSAC 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

  • Department for Trade and Industry (DTI) Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEA)  – 2005, 2006
    These surveys were run by DTI and JNCC, and set out to identify areas of Annex I reef habitat across Hatton Bank as well as multibeam data.
  • ECOVUL/ARPA program – 2005-2007
    Led by the Spanish Instituto Español de Oceanografía (IEO), this work aimed to investigate vulnerable deep‐sea habitats between depths of 1000-1500m below sea level on the western and north-western flanks of the bank. Both multibeam survey and high resolution seismic profiles of large areas of the western flank of the bank were conducted, supported by biological survey in the form of bottom trawl, dredge and box core sampling.

Data analysis reports
Further analysis of data gathered as part of the surveys listed above are available via the following reports:

References for further supporting scientific literature consulted during the identification of this site can be found in the Selection Assessment Document.

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:

  • Studies by Sayago-Gill et al. (2010; 2012) lend further evidence to the extent and type of geomorphological features along the Western slope of the Bank. The 2012 report details the type of benthic communities associated with the seabed morphology and substrate between 600m and 2000m depth. 

Sayago-Gil, M., Long, D., Hitchen, K., Diaz-Del-Rio, V., Fernandez-Salas, L. M., & Duran Munoz, P. 2010. Evidence for current-controlled morphology along the western slope of Hatton Bank (Rockall Plateau, NE Atlantic Ocean). Geo-Marine Letters, 30, 99–111

Sayago-Gil, M., Duran Munoz, P., Murillo, F. J., Diaz-Del-Rio, V., Serrano, A., & Miguel, I. 2012. A study of geomorphological features of the seabed and the relationship to deep-sea communities on the western slope of Hatton Bank (NE Atlantic Ocean). Seafloor Geomorphology as Benthic Habitat.

  • A study on Hatton Bank by Roberts et al. (2008) provides the first reported evidence for coral carbonate mound development in UK waters, suggesting that mound formation occurs through successive periods of coral framework growth and sedimentation.

Roberts, J.M., Henry, L.A., Long, D., & Hartley, J.P. (2008) Cold-water coral reef frameworks, megafaunal communities and evidence for coral carbonate mounds on the Hatton Bank, north east Atlantic. Facies, 54, pp297-316.

Knowledge gaps
If you are aware of any additional data or relevant scientific papers for this site not listed in the relevant documentation, or the Hatton Bank Selection Assessment Document listed in the relevant documents section, please contact JNCC.



MPA Conservation Advice

Conservation objectives
Conservation objectives set out the desired state for the protected feature of an MPA. The conservation objectives for the protected feature of the Hatton Bank cSAC has been set based on knowledge of the condition of the protected feature at the time of writing. Further information on feature condition and conservation objectives is provided in the Hatton Bank Conservation objectives and advice on operations document.

This information is useful if you are:

  • preparing Habitats Regulations Assessments (HRAs) of proposed plans or projects that may affect the site;
  • planning measures to maintain or restore the site and its qualifying features;
  • monitoring the condition of the qualifying features; or
  • developing, proposing or assessing an activity, plan or project that may affect the site.

The conservation objectives for the protected feature of the MPA is, subject to natural change, restore the reef to favourable condition, such that:

  • The natural environmental quality is restored;
  • The natural environmental processes and the extent are maintained;
  • The physical structure, diversity, community structure and typical species, representative of reef is restored.

JNCC is working to provide more detailed advice on the relatively broad, high level conservation objectives listed above. This supplementary advice will be posted here as and when it becomes available.

Advice on operations
In line with Regulation (18) of the Offshore Marine Conservation (Natural Habitats, & c.) Regulations 2007 (as amended) which apply to the UK’s offshore marine area.  The advice on operations for the protected feature of the Hatton Bank cSAC outline current knowledge of the nature and extent of activities taking place which may have a significant impact on the feature for which a site has been selected.

The advice on operations is based on JNCC’s scientific knowledge of the biological communities present at the time of writing and their sensitivities to pressures. For the most up-to-date information about the biological communities present within the site and their spatial distribution, please see the evidence tab. Sensitivity information for biological communities identified within the site can also be found on MarLIN’s website.

JNCC also provides a list of activities occurring within the site and information on activity management in the activities and management tab. This information is also useful when assessing an activity, plan or project which may affect the protected features and JNCC has provided this to aid the cumulative assessment of impacts of human activities within the site. While every attempt has been made to ensure this information is accurate and kept up-to-date, the list is not to be considered exhaustive or definitive. The list does not, for example, include activities occurring off-site which may also be capable of affecting the protected features.  

The information contained within the advice on operations, activities and management tab, evidence tab, and MarLIN’s sensitivity assessments are useful if you are:

  • Carrying out any activity that may impact 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 site, its integrity and its qualifying features and how activities can affect them may change over time. JNCC’s conservation advice will be kept under review and will be periodically updated to reflect this and surveillance required under Article 17 of the Habitats Directive.



Activities known to be currently occurring within this MPA

(Activities information correct as of December 2013)

At the time of writing, there were no activities taking place within the MPA.

Fisheries Management: The full extent of Hatton Bank SAC is closed to bottom fisheries under NEAFC recommendation IV-2013, transposed into EU law by council regulation EC. No 227/2013, to protect Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems (VMEs), namely cold water corals. ICES have further recommended that two areas outside the SAC boundary, one to the southeast and one to the southwest of Hatton Bank, be closed to bottom fisheries.

Site Management

Management Plan: JNCC is undertaking a review of management plan requirements for offshore MPAs. Further detail will be provided at a later date. For information on management actions being taken forward for this site, please go to Marine Scotland’s Fisheries Management in Offshore SACs webpage.

Management Group: None at present

Further information on conservation advice relating to the Hatton Bank cSAC is available under the Conservation Advice tab.




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.



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.

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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