Wester Ross MPA, formerly known as North-West Sea Lochs and Summer Isles MPA, encompasses seabed features that not only offer valuable insights into Scotland’s glacial past, but are also home to an amazing array of plants and animals. Burrowed mud, flame shell beds, maerl beds and northern feather star aggregations to name but a few, all find a place to thrive in the mosaic of sea lochs, bays and near-shore island channels. This complex landscape is a legacy from the end of the last Ice Age, when the ice sheet that once covered most of Scotland retreated.
The deeper parts of the MPA are covered by extensive areas of burrowed mud. Norway lobsters can be seen guarding the entrances to their burrows amongst dense forests of seapens. All three species of seapen found in Scottish coastal waters are present including substantial numbers of the scarce tall seapen. Increased tidal flow in shallower waters between the coastal islands and on the sills of the sea lochs supplies the necessary food and aeration for beds of flame shells and maerl to form. These habitats provide a stable home for myriad other plants and animals, from beautiful burrowing sea cucumbers burying their bodies in the maerl and gravel, to northern feather stars gripping onto the mixed sediments.
The current conservation objective is to conserve the protected features of this MPA, with the exception of flameshell beds and maerl beds which are set to recover.
More detail on the designation is available from the SNH website.