Proposal to designate a deep sea marine reserve: consultation

We are seeking your views on the potential creation of the West of Scotland Deep Sea Marine Reserve, as part of the Scottish Marine Protected Area (MPA) network.

West of Scotland

This section summarises information from various documents which underpin this proposal. It should be noted that designation of this site would result in the Rosemary Bank Seamount MPA being amalgamated into it. The West of Scotland would protect all the features currently protected in the Rosemary Bank Seamount MPA. However the Anton Dohrn Seamount Special Area of Conservation, designated under the EU Habitats Directive, would be left in place as it protects rocky reef habitats. The extent of the Anton Dohrn Seamount is within the West of Scotland proposal.

Site description

The West of Scotland covers 107,773 km2 of a diverse marine landscape to the west of Scotland; from the steep gradient of the continental slope across the sediment plains of the Rockall Trough, to the slopes of George Bligh Bank and Rockall Bank, with two isolated seamounts (Anton Dohrn and Rosemary Bank) as shown in Figure 3 below. Table 1 below outlines the proposed protected features.

Table 1: Proposed protected features

Proposed protected features
Burrowed mud (including sea pens)
Coral gardens
Cold-water coral reefs (including Lophelia pertusa reefs)
Deep sea sponge aggregations
Offshore deep sea muds
Offshore subtidal sands and gravels
Seamount communities
Blue Ling (Molva dypterygia)
Leafscale gulper shark (Centrophorus squamosus)
Gulper shark (Centrophorus granulosus)
Orange roughy (Hoplostethus atlanticus)
Portuguese dogfish (Centroscymnus coelolepis)
Roundnose grenadier (Coryphaenoides rupestris)
Geodiversity features

Figure 3: Location of Rockall Trough. Contains information from the Scottish Government (Marine Scotland) 2019, Joint Nature Conservation Committee, and EMODnet

Figure 3: Location of West of Scotland Deep Sea Marine Reserve proposal. Contains information from the Scottish Government (Marine Scotland) 2019, Joint Nature Conservation Committee, and EMODnet

Conservation Objectives and Management Advice

The conservation objectives of the West of Scotland are shown below in Table 2.

Table 2: Conservation objectives

Recover Conserve
Burrowed mud Blue Ling
Coral gardens
Cold-water coral reefs
Deep sea sponge aggregations
Offshore deep sea muds
Offshore subtidal sands and gravels
Seamount communities
Gulper shark
Leafscale gulper shark
Orange roughy
Portuguese dogfish
Roundnose grenadier

The management advice sets out where the JNCC consider additional management measures may be required to achieve the conservation objectives:

  • There are currently three telecommunications cables crossing the site and early discussions with operators is encouraged regarding new cable routes or for the maintenance/removal of existing cables to minimise impacts.
  • Oil and gas exploration has taken place and further activity may require additional mitigation measures on a case-by-case basis to achieve the conservation objectives.
  • Military activity practise areas partially overlap the area but no additional management required.
  • There is no evidence that shipping and noise generating activities are impacting these features and therefore no additional management required.
  • Deep-sea mining does not currently take place within the site but significant research has taken place. JNCC advise that as an evolving industry a precautionary approach should be adopted whereby no licenses should be granted for deep-sea mining.
  • Fishing activity already has a range of measures in place. Trawling at depths greater than 800 metres and use of gillnets and entangling nets greater than 600 metres is prohibited. JNCC advise extending these measures across the whole site, and to also cover other static gears.

Sustainability Appraisal Summary

The Strategic Environmental Assessment concluded that the designation of the West of Scotland proposal would have a minor immediate positive environmental effect, as demersal trawl fisheries measures are already in place. However it has the potential for more significant future benefits due to the reduction, exclusion or increased management of extractive activities (e.g. deep-sea mining).

Overall, the assessment highlights that the increased protection proposed would provide environmental benefits for the overarching SEA topic 'Biodiversity, Flora and Fauna'. This is because the designation of the sites will provide developers with a better understanding of the species and habitats being protected enabling more effective Environmental Impact Assessments. In turn this should ensure appropriate mitigation where necessary and therefore potentially reduce pressures associated with regulated activities.

The potential for cumulative adverse effects on the environment from the displacement of fishing activities has been identified as a result of the management of fisheries in adjacent MPAs, however due to legislative restrictions on deep sea fisheries, this potential is limited. A more detailed assessment of cumulative effects would be undertaken should additional fisheries management measures for the Deep Sea Marine Reserve be proposed in future.

The Socio-Economic Impact Assessment identified the potential cost impacts for six human activities. However, it was not possible to estimate costs associated with delays, opportunity costs of future activity foregone, or for impacts on investor confidence. The cost estimates for the intermediate scenario are considered to represent the best available estimate of quantified impacts.

The assessment has identified that the most significant cost would be to pelagic fisheries under the upper scenario. This impact reduces to zero under the intermediate scenario. There would also be costs to static fishing gear which can occur in the locations where the area is shallower than 600 metres, these being the George Bligh Bank, Rosemary Bank, and Anton Dhorn Seamount.

Tables 3 and 4 below outline the cost of impacts to human activities at the national scale. Table 3 shows the present value costs of the management scenarios to human activities other than fisheries. Table 4 shows the impact of the management scenarios on the fishing sector in terms of Gross Value Added.

Table 3: Present value (PV) in £'000 for quantified national cost (covering both assessed areas) impacts to human activities (costs discounted over assessment period (2019-2038), 2019 prices)

Sector Lower Intermediate Upper
Military activities 195 195 195
Oil and gas 14 0 0
Power interconnectors and transmission lines 0 0 0
Seabed mining 0 0 0
Telecom cables 9 9 9

Table 4: Impacts of the West of Scotland Area on Gross Value Added in £'000 for quantified cost impacts to commercial fisheries (Direct and Indirect GVA[9]) (costs discounted over the assessment period (2019 – 2038), 2019 prices)

Gross Value Added Lower Intermediate Upper
Direct 0 1,124 5,646
Direct + Indirect 0 1,628 8,175



Back to top