Protecting the UK's marine wonders for future generations

9 August 2017


The UKs seas host some of the most diverse habitats in Europe; from vibrant cold-water coral reefs in the hidden depths to towering underwater mountains that are hot spots for marine life – acting as feeding stations for whales and dolphins.

Cold-water coral gardens, Anton Dhorn Seamount © JNCC
The UKs marine environment stretches out to 200 nautical miles from the coast.  The Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) have been pioneering efforts to explore the more remote areas of UK seas, beyond the reach of most, for over a decade and have brought them to life in a series of underwater videos focussed on eight Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). The underwater journey begins to the far north of Scotland where hundreds of enormous sponge communities live in the Faroe-Shetland Channel, before travelling to the far south-west of England where England’s only cold-water coral reefs have been discovered. The video launch began in July and a new video is being released every Monday until 25 August.

This week features an Irish Sea MPA, 30 km off the north Wales coastline and 70 metres under the Irish Sea, where methane gas slowly bubbles from the seafloor. This gas is a key source of energy for marine bacteria that produce large towering structures. This bi-product is known as ‘Submarine structures made by leaking gases’. This particular formation in the Irish Sea has been named “Croker Carbonate Slabs” and is the largest known example of reef formed this way in the UK. A range of marine life can be found living on the carbonate structures, including soft corals and groups of brittle stars. 

Across the world, there have been increasing efforts in recent years to protect the marine environment and the services it provides. In the UK, our seas are a lifeline and provide many services to society:

  • Good physical and mental health from being by the sea, documented in scientific studies;
  • Food, medicine and energy, supporting people, local businesses and the UK economy; and
  • Oxygen in the air we breathe, produced by photosynthesis in marine phytoplankton (tiny floating plant cells that across the worlds’ oceans produce more oxygen than all the trees on Earth).


MPAs are one of the conservation tools being used world-wide to help safeguard our precious marine environment for future generations.

Croker Carbonate Slabs Submarine structures made by leaking gases ©JNCC & CefasJNCC has been working for over 10 years to identify MPAs in the more remote regions of our seas to ensure they remain healthy into the future. This will allow the UK to meet its global commitments to develop a ‘network’ of MPAs that work together to deliver benefits to people and nature.


Come and learn more about the work of the JNCC and other organisations responsible for advising on marine conservation by visiting an exhibit on MPAs at the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth – launching tomorrow (10 August). If you can’t make it to Plymouth, you can find out more by visiting our website and expedition blog, and by following us on Twitter and Facebook.





Notes to editors:

1. The Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) is the statutory adviser to Government on UK and international nature conservation. Its work contributes to maintaining and enriching biological diversity, conserving geological features and sustaining natural systems. For more information please email us ;

Tel: +44 (0)1733 866839.


2. JNCC have been working for over 10 years to identify Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) away from the coast to ensure our seas remain healthy for the future. This will allow the UK governments to meet their global commitments to develop a ‘network’ of MPAs that work together to deliver wider benefits to people and nature.


3. The UK MPA network:

  • Covers nearly one quarter of the total surface area of UK seas;
  • protects the range of marine life we have in UK seas; and
  • is made up of many different types of MPAs, ranging in size from just a few square meters, to Europe’s largest MPA at just over three times the size of Yorkshire.


4. The eight videos have been produced using survey video footage and images from project partners, including: Marine Scotland, Marine Scotland Science, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science, Oxford University, Plymouth University, National Oceanography Centre Southampton, British Geological Survey and British Geological Society.


5. The JNCC's Marine Protected Area (MPA) videos have been launched every Monday from 3 July 2017 and will finish on 21 August 2017. We are using social media to launch the videos with updates on Facebook and Twitter. The videos are also available on the JNCC’s MPA site information centres –


6. Remaining videos in the launch sequence include two MPAs: Geikie Slide and Hebridean Slope – an MPA protecting seabed communities on the continental slope to the west of Scotland (launching on the 14 August 2017), and Rosemary Bank Seamount – a towering underwater volcano to the far west of Scotland where vibrant communities of corals and sponges have their home (launching on the 21 August 2017).


7. JNCC have produced a ‘video tour’ map to accompany the press release. A number of example pictures from the sites are available here for download.