Fulmar MPA


Status: Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ)Farnes East MCZ Boundary


Fulmar MCZ is an offshore site 50-100m deep, located approximately 224km from the Northumberland coast.


The seabed of Fulmar MCZ is composed of subtidal mud and subtidal sand, with patches of subtidal mixed sediment. The habitats the MCZ protects are important resources for marine animals, providing food, spawning areas and shelter. Burrowing anemones and brittlestars are found at the site as well as slender sea-pens that protrude from the surface of the mud. Ocean quahog, an OSPAR threatened and/or declining species is also present, often entirely buried in the sand with a small tube extending to the surface for breathing and feeding.


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)
A5.2 Subtidal sand Broad-scale habitat Maintain in favourable condition
A5.3 Subtidal mud Broad-scale habitat Maintain in favourable condition
A5.4 Subtidal mixed sediments Broad-scale habitat Maintain in favourable condition
Ocean Quahog (Arctica islandica) Species Feature Of Conservation Importance Maintain 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 at the top of the page and in JNCCs MPA mapper, with the evidence underpinning available 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. These pressures are associated with activities taking place within or in close proximity to a protected site. Specific 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 Fulmar MCZ.  More information on the site's milestones can be found within the Relevant Documentation and in annex three of JNCCs advice on offshore MCZs considered for consultation in 2015.


Fulmar MCZ timeline

Relevant Documentation

The document listed below and any other historical documents relating to Fulmar 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 Fulmar MCZ, and will reflect any additional information gathered since these documents were produced. Further information about the MCZ site selection process and historic MCZ advice is available on JNCCs MCZ pages.


  • Fulmar MCZ Designation Order - The official description of the site designation under the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009. The designation order includes boundary coordinates, conservation objectives and a list of the designated features.




Last updated: October 2017


This site summary was adapted from the MCZ Site Report and incorporates any information gathered since this document was produced. Please refer to this document for further details and information sources.


Site overview:

Fulmar MCZ is located approximately 224km offshore of the Northumberland coast in the north east of England, close to Swallow Sand MCZ and North East of Farnes Deep MCZ . The seabed in the MCZ is predominantly subtidal mud, with small patches of other sediments. Burrowing tube anemones (Cerianthus lloydii), brittlestars (including Amphuria filiformis  and Ophiura albida) and sea potatoes (Echinocardium cordatum) are found living on the sediments at Fulmar MCZ. Sea-pens such as the slender sea-pen (Virgularia mirabilis) are also present. Fulmar MCZ is also home to a wide variety of worms that live within the sediment, which are an important food source for many other animals, including commercial fish species.


The MCZ currently has four designated features: subtidal mud, subtidal sand, subtidal mixed sediments and ocean quahog  (Arctica islandica). Ocean quahogs are a feature of conservation importance, and are also included on the OSPAR list of threatened or declining habitats and species. Ocean quahog is a long-lived species (over 500 years) with a very slow growth rate, taking up to 50 years to reach market size. They are thought to reach sexual maturity between 5-7 years, although this is dependent on locality and growth rates. The spawning period can vary also depending on location. Recent studies have found the population of ocean quahog in the North Sea has declined in abundance, which has been linked to the impacts of human activities on the seabed.


Fulmar MCZ was originally recommended by the Net Gain regional project  in 2011 to help meet the targets to protect subtidal coarse sediment and subtidal sand broad scale habitat features, and for the presence of ocean quahog. The presence of these features in the site was based on modelled habitat map developed by the UKSeaMap project in 2010 and ground-truthing carried out using data from British Geological Survey (BGS) and historical surveys (1902-2011).


Since the site was recommended, more data for Fulmar MCZ have been collected through additional data analysis and another site survey in 2012. Ground-truthing confirmed the presence of subtidal mud and subtidal mixed sediments broad-scale habitats in the site and formed the basis for a new modelled habitat map to revise the extent of subtidal sand and subtidal coarse sediment at the site. The survey, along with other data sourced confirmed the presence of ocean quahog at the site. Community analysis and biotope identification has also been conducted. 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:  2,437km2, a similar size to the county of Cheshire (2,343km2).

Site depth range:  50-100m.

Charting Progress 2 biogeographic region: Northern North 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 projects ecological network guidance. The boundary of Fulmar MCZ was developed by the Net Gain regional project and has not changed since it was recommended in 2011. The site boundary was guided by information on fishing intensity from international fishing fleets and infrastructure present on the seabed.




Last updated: October 2017


For a full overview of the data used to support site identification and information on confidence in feature presence and extent see JNCCs Tranche Two MCZ pre-consultation and post-consultation advice. For scientific literature consulted during the identification of this site can be found in the annexes of JNCCs advice. The data for Fulmar MCZ was collected primarily through JNCC-funded or collaborative surveys, with other data obtained through other data sourcing.  The data gathered provide direct evidence confirming the presence of the protected features within the site. Additional survey data will be added to JNCCs Interactive MPA Map  in due course.


Survey and data gathering

  • Fulmar MCZ MB0120 survey (2012) - JNCC collaborated with Cefas on an MCZ site verification survey to Fulmar MCZ, funded by the MB0120 Defra data collection fund. Video, images, acoustic data and grab samples were collected across the site.


Data analysis reports

Analyses of data gathered as part of the survey listed above, as well as other relevant data analysis products, are available in the following reports:

  • EUSeaMap (2016) - Provides supporting information on the presence and extent of Subtidal sand, Subtidal mud and Subtidal mixed sediments from a predictive seabed habitat map of European waters.
  • Mapping seabed sediments of the Fulmar rMCZ (2015) - Using the Fulmar MCZ survey data, JNCC contracted British Geological Survey to carry out particle size analysis to identify the sediments within the MCZ. The results verified the presence of Subtidal sand, Subtidal mud and Subtidal mixed sediments within Fulmar MCZ.
  • Community analysis of Fulmar MCZ data (2014) - JNCC undertook a community analysis of the grab and video data from the Fulmar MCZ survey (2012) to establish the biotopes present within the MCZ. The results showed that the follow biotopes were present at the site:

SS.SMu.OMu.PjefThyAfil (A5.376): Paramphinome jeffreysii, Thyasira spp. and Amphiura filiformis in offshore circalittoral sandy mud;

S.SMu.CSaMu.VirOphPmax (A5.354): Virgularia mirabilis and Ophiura spp. with Pecten maximus on circalittoral sandy or shelly mud; and

SS.SMx.CMx (A5.44x): Circalittoral mixed sediments, no matching biotope.

  • Fulmar MCZ survey data (2012) - Cefas undertook analysis of the data collected on the Fulmar MCZ survey (2012) to produce a summary report.  The data, analysed as part of the MB0120 Defra contract, led to the creation of a revised habitat map that has been used to inform the presence of broad-scale habitats within the MCZ.


Additional relevant literature

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 data not listed here or scientific papers relevant to this site, 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. 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 Fulmar MCZ are:

  • Subject to natural change, the subtidal sand, subtidal mud and subtidal mixed sediments features are to remain in or be brought into favourable condition, such that their:

    • Extent is stable or increasing; and
    • Structures and functions, quality, and composition of their characteristic biological communities are such as to ensure  that it is in a condition which is healthy and not deteriorating.

  • Subject to natural change, the ocean quahog (Arctica islandica) feature is to remain in or be brought into favourable condition, such that:

    • the quality and extent of its habitat is stable or increasing; and
    • the population structure allows numbers to be maintained or increased


More information regarding the conservation objectives for the protected features of Fulmar MCZ is available in the designation order. In addition to the conservation objectives, General Management Approaches (GMAs) have been set by JNCC to indicate whether a feature needs to be maintained or brought into favourable condition (i.e. recover), based on current knowledge about each features condition. For more information on the GMAs for MCZs see Defra’s MCZ Designation Explanatory Note or for more information on the GMAs for Fulmar MCZ see JNCCs Tranche Two MCZ pre-consultation and post-consultation advice to Defra.


The GMAs for the protected features of Fulmar MCZ are:

  • Subtidal sand: Maintain in favourable condition;
  • Subtidal mud: Maintain in favourable condition;
  • Subtidal mixed sediments: Maintain in favourable condition; and
  • Ocean quahog: Maintain in favourable condition.


Advice on operations 

Section 127 of the Marine and 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. Towards this, JNCC has published the following advice on activities that are capable of damaging or otherwise affecting protected features in MCZs:

    • MCZ fisheries advice  (joint advice with Natural England);
    • MCZ licensed activities advice  (joint advice with Natural England); and
    • JNCCs pre- and post-consultation advice for Tranche Two MCZs.


JNCC also provides a list of activities occurring within the Fulmar 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 MCZ.  While every attempt has been made to ensure this information is accurate and up-to-date, the list is not exhaustive or definitive. For example, the list does not include activities occurring offsite that may also be capable of affecting the protected features.


For the most up-to-date information on 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 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. JNCCs conservation advice will be kept under review and will be periodically updated to reflect this. Further information on JNCCs conservation advice work is available on the offshore MPA conservation advice webpage.


Activities and Management


Last updated: October 2017


Management status: Progressing towards being well managed


Whilst the vulnerability assessment conducted for this site suggests it may be achieving or moving towards its conservation objectives, directed site condition monitoring data is needed to improve our confidence in this assessment.


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 Fulmar 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, ‘licensable’ activities and telecommunications cables




Licensable activities

  • A considerable number of oil and gas developments take place within this MPA, including many fields, pipelines, wells and associated infrastructure. 
  • 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, 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

  • One telecommunications cable 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 nm.

  • 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

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.


Progression 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. The site has a ‘maintain’ conservation objective based on the findings of a vulnerability assessment (exposure the activities associated with pressures to which the protected features of the site are considered sensitive). This suggests the site may already be achieving or moving towards its conservation objectives. Site condition 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 MPA's, 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 the 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 Fulmar MCZ will be provided when it becomes available.




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 are based on observed data, and then measured against targets for pre-defined indicators. However, for MPA's in offshore waters the appropriate information is not always available particularly for seabed habitats, which are the main type of designated features within offshore MPAs. 


To address these challenges, JNCC has been an active partner in developing new approaches and tools for the assessment of habitats and species for a variety of national and international status reports. 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. The reports include the second cycle of the conservation status assessment reports under the EU Habitats DirectiveCharting Progress 2 and the OSPAR quality status report . 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 assessments, and contribute to the monitoring of marine biodiversity in UK waters.


Under the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009, JNCC is required to report to ministers on the degree to which the conservation objectives of the protected features of MCZs have been achieved. The act also requires a report every six years from 2012 setting out how MCZ's have performed against their conservation objectives, as well as the effectiveness of the network. These assessments will also feed into six-yearly reports on the state of the marine environment under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, which aims to achieve good environmental status by 2020.



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