JNCC have prepared updated conservation advice for Greater Haig Fras MCZ. Further information is available on the Conservation Advice tab below


Greater Haig Fras MPA


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


Greater Haig Fras MCZ is an offshore site situated to the south west of England, approximately 120km west of Land’s End in Cornwall.


The site protects approximately 2,041km2 of continental shelf seabed that surrounds an isolated fully submarine bedrock outcrop (the Haig Fras rock complex geological feature), the only substantial area of rocky reefs in the Celtic Sea beyond the coastal margin and inshore waters. The seabed surrounding this outcrop has a diverse range of sediment types from mud to coarse and mixed sediments. These habitats are known to support a range of animal species, including those which live within the sediments such as small burrowing worms and bivalve molluscs to urchins, starfish and some crustaceans that live on the sediment surface.


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
A5.1: Subtidal coarse sediment Broad-Scale Habitat
A5.2: Subtidal sand Broad-Scale Habitat
A5.3: Subtidal mud Broad-Scale Habitat
A5.4: Subtidal mixed sediments Broad-Scale Habitat
Sea-pen and burrowing megafauna communities Habitat Feature of Conservation Importance
Haig Fras rock complex Geological Feature


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.

Site Timeline

The diagram below is a summary of the key milestones involved in the selection and designation of Greater Haig Fras MCZ.  More detail can be found within the relevant documentation listed below.

Greater Haig Fras Timeline

Relevant Documentation

The documents referred to below and any other historical documents relating to Greater Haig Fras MCZ were produced during the selection and designation process and therefore may be out of date.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.


  • Greater Haig Fras MCZ Designation Order - The official prescription 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.  
  • JNCC's pre and post consultation scientific advice for features proposed for designation in Tranche Two.
  • JNCC's formal conservation advice for this site is accessible through the Conservation Advice tab below.




Last updated: October 2017


Information for this site summary was adapted from the Relevant Documentation and incorporates any further information gathered since this advice was produced. 


Site overview

Greater Haig Fras MCZ is situated approximately 120km offshore from the south west of England. It contains the geological feature, the Haig Fras rock complex. This fully submarine granite outcrop approximately 45km long and 15km wide runs diagonally through the site. The area of continental shelf that surrounds this rock outcrop presents a wide range of sediment types from mud to coarse and mixed sediments.


The subtidal rocky habitat within this site is already protected by Haig Fras SAC, but the broad-scale sedimentary habitats are now offered protection as features of the Greater Haig Fras MCZ. This includes Subtidal coarse sediment, Subtidal sand, Subtidal mud, and Subtidal mixed sediments. The variety of subtidal sediments present here support a range of animals including many species of polychaete worm and bivalve mollusc that live within the sediment, and on the surface of the sediment epifaunal species including echinoderms such as sea urchins and starfish are recorded. In the deeper areas of the site, a particular type of mud habitat known as Sea-pen and burrowing megafauna communities occurs, which is also an OSPAR Threatened and / or Declining habitat across the North-east Atlantic. The burrowing activity of crustaceans such as mud shrimps and the Norway lobster Nephrops norvegicus has an important functional role, allowing oxygen penetration deeper into the sediment, releasing nutrients, and increasing the structural complexity of the habitat. Although characterised by Nephrops and sea-pen, this habitat also supports a rich community of animals living within the sediment.


In addition to the Haig Fras SAC which is completely contained within the boundary of the Greater Haig Fras MCZ, a number of other MPAs are located close by. North-West of Jones Bank MCZ (approximately 9km south of the southern site boundary) protects the same broad-scale habitats as well as the habitat FOCI Sea-pen and burrowing megafauna communities and thereby contributes to adequacy and replication targets for this region. East of Haig Fras MCZ (approximately 40km to the east) also protects a range of broad-scale habitats. 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:  2,041km2.

Greater Haig Fras MCZ is similar in size to the county West Sussex (1,991km2) in the south of England.

Site depth range:  Greater Haig Fras MCZ varies in depth from less than 50m over the rock outcrop, to 200m depth over the surrounding seabed.

Charting Progress 2 biogeographic region - Western Channel and Celtic Sea.


Site boundary description
The western boundary of Greater Haig Fras MCZ aligns with the UK Continental Shelf Limit. The remainder of the site has been drawn to encompass the entirety of the geological feature Haig Fras Rock Complex and Haig Fras SAC, with surrounding areas of sediment. The boundary is in accordance with the MCZ Ecological Network Guidance, which advises using a minimum number of simple lines to delineate the site.



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 JNCC's Tranche Two pre consultation and post consultation advice to Defra. 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 MCZ 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 features within the site. As this MCZ contains the Haig Fras SAC within its boundary entirely, any data gathered from surveys of the SAC will be relevant to the sedimentary and geological features of the MCZ. For more information see the Haig Fras SAC.


Survey and data gathering

  • National Oceanography Centre Southampton, JC124 seabed monitoring (2015) - NOC Southampton carried out seabed monitoring at Greater Haig Fras MCZ as part of the DEFRA funded project "Novel AUV and Glider deployments to inform future MPA and MSFD monitoring strategy in UK shelf waters?". Acoustic data were collected from a location previously surveyed in 2012 using an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) deployed from RRS James Cook (cruise code, JC124). The objective was to test the feasibility of shallow water high-resolution repeat mapping, and evaluate the amount of 'natural' change shown by the studied seabed habitats and fauna over the three-year period.
  • Marine Institute Nephrops survey (2012-2015) - The Marine Institute collected underwater video survey data at stations in the Greater Haig Fras MCZ, as part of a Nephrops stock assessment survey of the wider 'Labadie, Jones and Cockburn Banks' ICES assessment area (Functional Unit 20-21). Data verifying the presence of the mud habitat 'Sea-pen and burrowing megafauna communities' were recorded.
  • Gardline Geosurvey (2014) - Collected full coverage multibeam bathymetry and backscatter data within the southern area of Greater Haig Fras MCZ. Data were collected from MV Vigilant using a hull mounted EM2040 dual head multibeam echo sounder.
  • JNCC/Cefas Greater Haig Fras rMCZ Survey (MB0120) (2012) - JNCC and Cefas undertook a survey of Greater Haig Fras MCZ to verify the predicted habitats within the site (RV Cefas Endeavour, CEND 10/12). Multibeam bathymetry data were collected to the north of Haig Fras SAC along corridors spaced five km apart and opportunistically while transiting between the 53 ground truth sample stations. Grab samples were collected from all stations, while video and still images were taken at 23 stations.
  • Survey data were also collected within Haig Fras SAC to infill areas of poor survey coverage from the 2011 survey. Full coverage multibeam and backscatter data were obtained from survey blocks not covered in 2011, eight underwater video and 11 additional grab stations were sampled.
  • British Geological Survey Particle Size Analysis (PSA) data - Sediment samples from historical BGS surveys provide information on the presence and extent of the broad-scale habitats: Subtidal coarse sediment, Subtidal sand, Subtidal mud and Subtidal mixed sediments.


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:

  • Greater Haig Fras MCZ community analysis (2016) - JNCC contracted Seastar Survey Ltd to complete a community analysis and identify biotopes from offshore MCZ grab and video data gathered to provide evidence to underpin the MCZ designation. Biotopes were assigned using the Marine Habitat Classification for Britain and Ireland (JNCC 2015) after multivariate analysis of the survey data. The following biotopes were found within Greater Haig Fras MCZ:   
    *MHCBI Biotope   


    EUNIS code (level 4)    

    Broad-Scale Habitat


    Offshore circalittoral coarse sediment      


    Subtidal coarse sediment


    Offshore circalittoral sand


    Subtidal sand


    Offshore circalittoral mud


    Subtidal mud


    Offshore circalittoral mixed sediment


    Subtidal mixed sediments

    * Marine Habitat Classification for Britain and Ireland (JNCC 2015).

  • EUSeaMap (2016) - Provides supporting information on the presence and extent of Subtidal coarse sediment, Subtidal sand, Subtidal mud and Subtidal mixed sediments from a predictive seabed habitat map of European waters.
  • Marine Institute Nephrops survey reports (2013-2015) - Provide results and analysis from Nephrops stock assessment surveys of areas FU 20-21 in 2006, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015, which sampled within and around the Greater Haig Fras MCZ. Nephrops burrow densities and abundance of sea-pens are presented from underwater video survey.
  • Mapping of the Haig Fras Site of Community Importance (SCI) (2015) - Survey data collected in 2011 and 2012 by JNCC and Cefas were analysed to map the full extent of reefs at Haig Fras cSAC/SCI. Maps depicting the distribution of identified EUNIS habitat types and Annex I reefs are presented.
  • Greater Haig Fras rMCZ post-survey site report (MB0120) (2015) - This report provides an updated map of the presence and estimated extent of habitats within the site. Survey data to support this were collected jointly by Cefas and the JNCC and Gardline Geosurvey personnel at the Greater Haig Fras rMCZ site during July 2012 and March 2014, respectively.
  • Mapping of Geological and Geomorphological Features (MB0102 Task 2A) (2009) - Defra commissioned a contract to collate data from a range of sources and map geological and geomorphological features, including the Haig Fras rock complex.


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.


MPA Conservation Advice


Last updated: March 2018


Updated formal conservation advice is now available for this MPA.  Further information on the approach used to develop this advice is available on the Conservation Advice webpage.

You must refer to this advice if you:

  • undertake a Habitats Regulation Assessment (HRA) for a plan or project that could impact the site;
  • provide information for a HRA;
  • respond to specific measures to prevent the deterioration of habitats and significant disturbance of features; and
  • consider the need to put new or additional management measures in place.


You may also find it useful to refer to this advice if you:

  • carry out any other activity that could impact the site.


We will engage with stakeholders to identify any lessons which JNCC can learn from customers who have used the advice, with a view to continuing to ensure it is fit-for-purpose.

The following table provides an overview of the components of the conservation advice, and provides hyperlinks to each of the products for this MPA.  These elements together form JNCC’s formal conservation advice for this site and should be read in conjunction with each other.  This advice reflects the most up-to-date evidence held by JNCC (correct as of March 2018).  A zipped folder enabling these documents to be downloaded together is available at the bottom of this page.




Background Information


Explains the purpose of the advice and when it must be referred to.

Conservation Objectives


Supplementary Advice on the Conservation Objectives (SACO)


The Conservation Objectives set out the broad ecological aims for the site. JNCC provide supplementary advice in the SACO which is essential reading to support interpretation of these conservation objectives.

You can use these documents to assess the impacts of your planned activity on the important attributes of the site.


Please note our current understanding of whether the available evidence indicates that each attribute needs to be restored or maintained is not provided here. However, links to available evidence for the site are provided and should you require further site-specific information for the site, please contact JNCC at: offshorempas@jncc.gov.uk.

Conservation advice statements

These statements provide a summary of the Supplementary Advice on the Conservation Objectives (SACO).


  • Site condition presents our up to date understanding of the condition of features within the site;
  • Conservation benefits which the site can provide, these help you understand what is important about the site and why it needs protecting; and
  • Conservation measures which JNCC consider are needed to support achievement of the conservation objectives. These provide clarity around measures needed to support restoration or maintenance of the feature(s) within the site.


Advice on operations


Provides information on the activities capable of affecting site integrity and therefore achievement of the site’s conservation objectives.

This is a starting point for determining potential management requirements. It does not take into account the intensity, frequency or cumulative impacts from activities taking place. It is simply to advise you of the possible adverse impacts that your activity can have on a MPA’s features.

Use the advice on operations to determine those pressures your activity causes that could harm the habitat and/or species features of the site.






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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 needed to improve our confidence in this assessment. 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 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 Greater 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.



  • There is evidence of demersal fishing effort by both UK and non-UK registered vessels within the Greater Haig Fras MCZ. 

  • As the site falls outside the UK’s 12 nautical mile limit, any management will be implemented exclusively through 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.

  • The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) are the lead authority regarding the implementation of, and compliance with, any measures to manage fishing activity. Further information on progress is available via MMO webpages.


Licensable activities

  • Licensable activities such as oil and gas exploration and production do not take place within this MPA at present, but 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 sites 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 MMO’s guidance on marine conservation zones and marine licensing.
  • 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

  • Three telecommunications cables currently cross 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

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. A summary of our existing knowledge base for this site is provided in the Evidence tab.


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 vulnerability assessment conducted for this site has set “recover” objectives for its protected habitat features, suggesting it is unlikely to be moving towards its conservation objectives. Directed site condition monitoring data are needed to 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.


Information on monitoring of this MPA 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 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.



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