Located to the far north-east of Scotland, the North-East Faroe Shetland Channel MPA, designated for deep-sea sponge aggregations, offshore deep-sea muds, offshore sub-tidal sands and gravels, and continental slope, includes a large part of the north-eastern reaches of the Faroe-Shetland Channel in Scottish waters. It is also the largest marine protected area in the EU.
The habitats are strongly influenced by the significant range of environmental conditions present, from the upper continental slope to the depths of the channel, and include a dynamic zone of mixing where warmer Atlantic waters flow over cooler Arctic waters. The continental slope plays an important role in funnelling ocean currents that bring valuable food and nutrients to the region, which in turn support a wide diversity of life. The channel is believed to be a corridor for migrating marine mammals, including the Fin whale (‘razorback’) and Sperm whale.
At depths of 400-600m, the combination of seabed type and plentiful supply of nutrients is ideal for the establishment of deep-sea sponges. Up to 50 sponge species can be found within the sponge fields, many of which are different to those found in the surrounding areas.
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.