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. 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 below.

Map displaying MPA boundary and associated

protected feature data. Further data will be

available in due course. 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)
A5.1: Subtidal coarse sediment                Broad-Scale Habitat            


to Favourable Condition

A5.2: Subtidal sand Broad-Scale Habitat


to Favourable Condition

A5.3: Subtidal mud Broad-Scale Habitat Recover

to Favourable Condition

A5.4: Subtidal mixed sediments Broad-Scale Habitat Recover

to Favourable Condition

Sea-pen and burrowing megafauna communities Habitat Feature of Conservation Importance Recover

to Favourable Condition

Haig Fras rock complex Geological Feature


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 below.


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 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 Greater Haig Fras MCZ.  More detail can be found within the relevant documentation listed below.

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.



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.

Information for this site summary was adapted from JNCC's relevant advice documents on this site and incorporates any further information gathered since this advice was produced. 


Site specific data

There is a range of data that underpin this MCZ. The full overview of the 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

  • 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.
  • 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.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.


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:

  • 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.
  • EUSeaMap - (Last updated 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.
  • 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).


References for further supporting scientific literature consulted during the identification of this site can be found in the annexes of our advice.


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

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; 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 features Subtidal coarse sediment, Subtidal sand, Subtidal mud, Subtidal mixed sediments and the Sea-pen and burrowing megafauna communities are to remain in or be brought into favourable condition, such that for each feature:

  • its extent is stable or increasing; and
  • its structures and functions, its quality, and the composition of its 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 geological interest feature is to remain in or be brought into favourable condition, such that:

  • its extent, component elements and integrity are maintained;
  • its structure and functioning are unimpaired; and
  • its surface remains sufficiently unobscured for the purposes of determining whether the conditions in the points above are satisfied.


More information regarding the conservation objectives for the protected features of Greater 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 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:

Subtidal coarse sediment: Recover to favourable condition

Subtidal sand: Recover to favourable condition

Subtidal mud: Recover to favourable condition

Subtidal mixed sediments: Recover to favourable condition

Sea-pen and burrowing megafauna communities: Recover to favourable condition

Haig Fras rock complex: Maintain in favourable condition


More information on the GMA for the features in Greater Haig Fras MCZ is provided in JNCC's Tranche Two pre-consultation and Tranche Two post-consultation 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 Greater 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 (Tillen et al., 2010) commissioned by Defra to support

the MCZ designation process.


The information contained within the data and evidence tab, the activities and management tab, the Tillen

et al., 2010 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
  • 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 work is available on the offshore MPA

conservation advice webpage.



(Information correct as of June 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.




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.

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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