East of Haig Fras MPA

 

Status: Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ)Click to link to the interactive map

 

East of Haig Fras MCZ is located approximately 67 km west of Land’s End, in the Celtic Sea. The seabed is heterogeneous, with small patches of habitat blending into each other. Ridges composed of a mosaic of coarse and mixed subtidal sediments run through the site. These sediment ridges are topped with rocky features and are separated by mobile sand or mud.

 

The rocky cobbles and boulders provide habitat for hydroids and bryozoans along with other species, such as sponges, cup corals and squat lobsters. The sediments are home to a wide diversity of worm species. Pea urchins, small sea urchins which only reach 1 cm in diameter, are one of the most common species living in the sediments. Juvenile brittlestars and cushion stars have also been recorded.

 

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

EUNIS Code: Protected Features Feature Type General Management Approach
(to achieve conservation objective)
A4.2 Moderate energy circalittoral rock Broad-Scale Habitat

Recover to favourable condition

A5.1 Subtidal coarse sediment/ A5.4 Subtidal mixed sediments mosaic Marine Habitat

Recover to favourable condition

A5.2 Subtidal sand Broad-Scale Habitat

Recover to favourable condition

A5.3 Subtidal mud Broad-Scale Habitat

Recover to 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 MCZ 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 East of Haig Fras MCZ. More detail can be found within the relevant documentation listed below and Annex 3 of the JNCC Advice on possible offshore Marine Conservation Zones considered for consultation in 2015.

Timeline of designation for East of Haig Fras MCZ including new features


Relevant Documentation

The documents referred to below, and any other historical documents relating to East of Haig Fras MCZ, 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. Further information about the Marine Conservation Zone site selection process and historic MCZ advice is available on the JNCC MCZ pages.

 

 



Summary

 

Last updated: October 2017

 

The information for this site summary was adapted from documents listed in the Evidence tab.

 

Site overview
East of Haig Fras MCZ is located approximately 67 km north west of Land’s End, in the Celtic Sea. The site has an area of around 400 km2 and is situated on a plateau on the UK continental shelf. The seabed in the MCZ is heterogeneous, with small patches of habitat blending into each other. Ridges composed of a mosaic of subtidal coarse and mixed sediments run north east to south west through the site. These sediment ridges are topped with rocky features, such as boulders and cobbles. Various sponges, anemones and hydroids have been observed on the coarser sediments and rocky habitats. The sediment ridges are separated by mobile sand or mud, with sandy habitat being more prevalent in the north west of the site. Pea urchins (Echinocyamus pusillus) and brittlestars are some of the most common species living in and on the sediment. East of Haig Fras MCZ is also home to a wide diversity of polychaete worm species. Several molluscs have also been recorded on multiple occasions. Analyses of benthic community data collected during offshore surveys have indicated that there are seven biotopes present within the East of Haig Fras MCZ.

 

The MCZ currently has four designated features; Moderate energy circalittoral rock, Subtidal sand, Subtidal mud and a mosaic of Subtidal coarse sediment and Subtidal mixed sediments. East of Haig Fras MCZ was included in the Finding Sanctuary Regional MCZ Project recommendations to help meet targets regarding Moderate energy circalittoral rock, Subtidal coarse sediment and Subtidal sand broad-scale habitats. Since the site was first recommended, three dedicated surveys have visited East of Haig Fras MCZ. Surveys have confirmed the presence of the three originally recommended broad-scale habitats. Subtidal mixed sediments and Subtidal mud were also identified during the surveys. The spatial extent of the Subtidal coarse sediment and Subtidal mixed sediments could not be delineated separately, and therefore they have been designated together as a habitat mosaic. The second survey focussed on the rock habitat feature and found evidence of High energy circalittoral rock in the site. In light of this, JNCC advised Defra on the designation of High energy circalittoral rock in our 2015 scientific advice on the site in Tranche Two, but this feature has not yet been designated in the site. Further detail on the evidence for this MCZ can be found on the Evidence tab.

 

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

Site area: 400 km2, which makes it larger than the Isle of Wight at only 380 km2.

Site depth range: Sea depth at East of Haig Fras MCZ ranges from 50 m to over 100 m, however most of the site is between 80 m and 100 m deep.

Charting Progress 2 Biogeographic Region: Western Channel and Celtic Sea.

 

Site boundary description
The site is a simple polygon with boundary lines running north to south and east to west in line with the guidance provided by the MCZ project Ecological Network Guidance (ENG). The north of the site overlaps with the Trevose Box seasonal fishing closure. The boundary of the East of Haig Fras MCZ has not changed since it was recommended by the Finding Sanctuary Regional MCZ Project in 2011.

 

Evidence

 

Last updated: October 2017

 

The full overview of the range of data used to support site identification along with information on the confidence in feature presence and extent is available in the 2013 JNCC's advice on offshore Marine Conservation Zones proposed for designation in 2013 as well as the pre-consultation and post-consultation advice for Tranche Two offshore Marine Conservation Zones proposed for designation in 2016. JNCC will be adding relevant survey data for this MPA to our MPA interactive map in due course. Some of the data for this MCZ 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.

 

Survey and data gathering

  • East of Haig Fras MCZ monitoring survey (2015) - East of Haig Fras MCZ was surveyed by Cefas and JNCC in 2015, during which ground truth samples were collected to provide a baseline for site monitoring.
  • East of Haig Fras MCZ verification survey (2013) - A second survey by Cefas and JNCC was undertaken in 2013 because the results of the 2012 survey highlighted a need for further groundtruthing around the potential circalittoral rock features.
  • East of Haig Fras MCZ verification survey (2012) - The survey was a collaboration between Cefas and JNCC to collect acoustic and groundtruth data to identify the presence and extent of broadscale habitats and habitat features of conservation importance within East of Haig Fras MCZ.

 

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:

  • EUSeaMap (2016) - Provides supporting information on the presence and extent of moderate energy circalittoral rock, subtidal coarse sediment and subtidal sand from a predictive seabed habitat map of European waters.
  • British Geological Survey Hard Substrate Map - The interpretation of the BGS hard substrate maps was based on a variety of data sourced from within the British Geological Survey and externally. The map provides evidence for the presence of Moderate energy circalittoral rock within East of Haig Fras MCZ.
  • British Geological Survey Seabed Sediments Data Points Map - Particle Size Analysis of historical data was used to identify habitat type and converted to the EUNIS broadscale habitats by JNCC. The data suggest subtidal coarse sediment and subtidal sand both occur within the site.
  • East of Haig Fras rMCZ Summary Site Report (2014) - The data from the 2012 and 2013 verification surveys have been analysed by Cefas. The analysis confirmed the presence of moderate energy circalittoral rock, subtidal sand and subtidal coarse sediments and subtidal mixed sediment mosaics. High energy circalittoral rock, mud habitats in deep water and subtidal mud habitat, which are not currently protected features of the site, were also identified.
  • Community analysis of East of Haig Fras MCZ data (2014) - JNCC contracted Seastar Survey Ltd to complete a community analysis of offshore MCZ grab and video data to establish biotopes. The following biotopes were recorded in East of Haig Fras MCZ:

CR.HCR.DpSp.(PhaAxi): A4.121 Phakellia ventilabrum (chalice sponge) and axinellid sponges on deep, wave-exposed circalittoral rock
SS.SCS.OCS: A5.15 Offshore circalittoral coarse sediment
SS.SSa.CFiSa.EpusOborApri / SS.SMx.OMx: A5.251 Echinocyamus pusillus (pea urchin), Ophelia borealis (a bristle worm) and Abra prismatica (a bivalve mollusc) in circalittoral fine sand / A5.45 Offshore circalittoral mixed sediments
SS.SSa.OSa: A5.37 Deep circalittoral sand
SS.SMu.OMu / SS.SMx.OMx: A5.37 Offshore circalittoral mud / A5.45 Offshore circalittoral mixed sediments
SS.SMx.OMx.(PoVen): A5.451 Polychaete-rich deep Venus community in offshore mixed sediments.

 

Additional relevant literature

References for further supporting scientific literature consulted during the identification of this site can be found in the annexes of our advice. Please be aware that although these sources contain information in relation to this MPA, they do not necessarily represent the views of JNCC.

 

Knowledge gaps
If you are aware of any additional information not referred to in any of the documents listed on the Evidence tab or the annexes of the MCZ advice documents, please contact JNCC.

 

Conservation Advice

 

Last updated: October 2017

 

Conservation objectives
Conservation objectives set out the desired state for the protected features of an MPA.

The conservation objectives for the protected features of an 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 MCZ are:

Subject to natural change, the moderate energy circalittoral rock, subtidal coarse sediment/ subtidal mixed sediment mosaic, subtidal sand and subtidal mud features are to remain in or be brought into favourable condition, such that it's:

  • Extent is 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.

 

More information regarding the conservation objectives for the protected features of the East of Haig Fras MCZ is available in the site Designation Order. In addition to the conservation objectives above, General Management Approaches (GMAs) have been set by JNCC for each feature which provide a view as to whether a feature needs to be maintained in or be brought into favourable condition i.e. recover, based on our knowledge about its condition. For more information on the General Management Approach for MCZs see Defra’s MCZ Designation Explanatory Note.

 

The GMAs for the protected features of the MPA are:

Moderate energy circalittoral rock: Recover to favourable condition

  • Subtidal coarse sediments/Subtidal mixed sediments mosaic: Recover to favourable condition;
  • Subtidal sand: Recover to favourable condition; and
  • Subtidal mud: Recover to favourable condition.

More information on the GMA for the features in East of Haig Fras MCZ is provided in JNCC’s Tranche 1 post-consultation advice to Defra and the Tranche Two pre-consultation and post-consultation scientific advice to Defra.

 

Advice on operations

Section 127 of the Marine & Coastal Access Act (2009) states that JNCC may provide advice and guidance regarding matters capable of damaging or otherwise affecting the protected features of an MCZ. JNCC has published the following advice on activities which are capable of damaging or otherwise affecting protected features in MCZs:

 

JNCC provides a list of activities occurring within the East of Haig Fras MCZ and information on management within the Activities and Management tab. 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.

 

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 the protected features within the site can be found in a Technical Report commissioned by Defra to support the MCZ designation process.

 

The information contained within the Evidence tab, the Activities and Management tab, the above technical report and the advice listed above on activities which are capable of damaging or otherwise affecting the protected features in MCZs 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: October 2017

 

Management status: Progressing towards being well managed

 

The vulnerability assessment conducted for this site suggests it is unlikely to be moving towards its conservation objectives, but directed site condition monitoring data are required in improve our confidence in this assessment. Licensable activities are being managed and progress is ongoing with regards to the recommendation of fisheries management proposals to the European Commission.

 

This site forms part of the UK’s contribution to the OSPAR commission’s network of MPAs and the Emerald network established under the Bern Convention. As the UK is a member of the OSPAR commission, JNCC are committed to ensuring that the OSPAR MPA network is 'well-managed’ by 2020.

JNCC consider ‘well-managed’ to mean the timely progress of an MPA around the ‘MPA management cycle’. This involves:

  1. The documentation of appropriate management information - conservation objectives, advice on activities capable of affecting the protected features of a site, and spatial information on the presence and extent of the protected features of a site.
  2. The implementation of management measures - management actions considered necessary to achieve the conservation objectives of a site.
  3. Site condition monitoring programmes – collecting the information necessary to determine progress towards a site’s conservation objectives.
  4. Assessment of progress towards conservation objectives – using available information to infer whether or not a site is moving towards or has achieved its conservation objectives.

 

The sub-sections that follow provide an account of the progress of East of Haig Fras MCZ around each of these four stages in the MPA management cycle:

 

The documentation of appropriate management information

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

 

The implementation of management measures
This section details progress towards the implementation of management measures for activities considered capable of affecting the conservation status of the protected features of the site. The protected features of the site are considered to be sensitive to pressures associated with fishing and ‘licensable’ activities.

 

Fisheries

  • There is evidence of mobile and static demersal effort within the MPA. UK and non-UK registered vessels have been active in the area.
  • The site falls outside the UK’s 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 Common Fisheries Policy (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.
  • Future management proposals would need to be developed by in line with JNCC and Natural England fisheries advice.
  • The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) is the lead authority regarding the implementation of, and compliance with, any measures to manage fishing activity. Further information on progress is available via the MMO website.

 

Licensable activities

  • Whilst licensable activities such as oil and gas exploration and production do not take place within East of Haig Fras MCZ at present, any future proposals would be 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 site’s conservation objectives. JNCC consider that 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, please see The Marine Management Organisations’ guidance on marine conservation zones and marine licensing.
  • Further information on JNCCs role in the provision of advice for licensed activities in the UK offshore area is available on JNCC's offshore industries advice webpage.

 

Telecommunications cables

  • A number of telecommunication cables cross 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 monitoring survey of the MPA took place in 2015. The survey established the baseline conditions of the protected features of the MPA. Further information is provided in the Monitoring tab and the survey cruise report (Calloway, 2015).

 

Progression 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 a vulnerability assessment which indicated exposure to activities associated with pressures to which the protected features of the site are considered sensitive. This suggests the site is unlikely to be moving towards its conservation objectives, but longer term site condition monitoring data would improve our confidence in this assessment. 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. Data and evidence collected from MPA 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.

 

In May 2015, a monitoring survey was undertaken within East of Haig Fras MCZ aboard the R/V Cefas Endeavour. The aim of the survey was to collect the first dataset in a monitoring time-series, enabling a better understanding of long-term patterns in benthic fauna.

 

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 Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) have been achieved.  Every 6 years from 2012, the Marine Act requires a report setting out how MCZs 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