The Central Fladen MPA lies within the Fladen Grounds, a large area of mud in the northern North Sea named after the German word “fladen” meaning “flat cake”. Central Fladen includes a particular type of mud habitat, called burrowed mud, which is characterised by feather-like soft corals called seapens, and the burrows made by crustaceans such as mud shrimp and the Norway lobster. Burrowed mud is an interesting and important marine habitat that supports a rich community of animals. Burrowing species can be found living within the mud itself, including the Norway lobster and mud shrimp. Their burrowing activity plays an important role in supporting life in the area; the constant churning of the mud releases nutrients and helps to mix oxygen into the mud. Longer-lasting burrows also provide shelter to other marine life such as the starfish and sea urchins that patrol the muddy surface looking for food.
Several different types of seapen can be found anchored in the muddy seabed. The southern part of the Central Fladen MPA includes examples of the nationally uncommon tall seapen, which can grow up to 2m in height. Brittlestars use the tall seapen as an elevated perch to filter food from passing currents.
The MPA has also been shaped to include an unusual tunnel valley, known as the Fladen Deeps or ‘The Holes’. It is thought that these valleys were created by erosion of melt water under an ice sheet in former ice ages. In places, the sea floor depressions can stretch for 40km and be 4km wide, reaching depths of 150m.
The current conservation objective is to conserve the protected features of this MPA.
More detail on the designation is available from the JNCC website.
The final Business and Regulatory Impact Assessment for this MPA is available to view.