Western Channel MPA


Status: Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ)Farnes East MCZ Boundary


Western Channel MCZ is located 54 km off the south coast of England to the south-east of the Lizard Peninsula; the southern boundary of the site follows the country median line between the UK and France.


The site makes a large contribution to the protection of Subtidal coarse sediment and Subtidal sand in the region. It is also important for the connectivity between both MPAs in the UK offshore region and also between the MPAs in UK waters and those in French waters.




Map displaying the MPA boundary

View and download spatial data for this MPA

on the JNCC UK MPA interactive map.


Legislation behind the designation: Marine and Coastal Access Act (2009)


Protected Features:

EUNIS Code: Protected Features Feature Type General Management Approach
(to achieve conservation objective)
A5.1 Subtidal coarse sediment

 Broad-Scale Habitat  



to Favourable Condition

A5.2 Subtidal sand Broad-Scale Habitat


to Favourable Condition


Conservation Objectives
The overarching conservation objectives for the designated features of all protected sites in UK offshore waters is to ensure they either remain in, or reach favourable condition. The ability of a designated feature to remain in, or reach favourable condition can be affected by its sensitivity to pressures associated with activities taking place within or in close proximity to a protected site.

Specific information on the conservation objectives relating to this MCZ is provided in the Conservation Advice tab.

Site Timeline

The diagram below is a summary of the key milestones involved in the selection and designation of  Western Channel MCZ.  More detail can be found within the relevant documentation listed below and Annex 3 of the JNCC Advice on possible offshore Marine Conservation Zones considered for consultation in 2015.



Relevant Documentation

The documents referred to below and any other historical documents relating to Western Channel MCZ were produced during the selection and designation process and therefore may be out of date.  This Site Information Centre is the most up to date source of information for this MPA, and will reflect any additional information gathered since these documents were produced.

Further information about the Marine Conservation Zone site selection process and historic MCZ advice is available on the JNCC MCZ pages.




Information for this site summary was adapted from JNCC’s scientific advice to Defra on Western Channel MCZ and incorporates any further information gathered since this document was produced. Please refer to this document in the relevant documentation section for further details and information sources.


Site overview

Western Channel MCZ is situated approximately 54km off the south coast on England to the south-east of the Lizard Peninsula. The site is an area of continental shelf that is predominantly sandy with a mixed distribution of coarse and mixed sediments across the site extent.
The site protects subtidal habitats that are representative of offshore habitats in UK waters. This includes the protection of almost 1440km2 of Subtidal coarse sediment, as well as over 150km2 of Subtidal sand. The acoustic signature from survey shows the presence of sand waves throughout the site known as Barchan dunes. These crescent-shaped sand dune produced by the action of wind predominately from one direction.  These habitats support a range of animal species including segmented worms, sponges, molluscs and echinoderms, including sea urchins and starfish. Cnidarians, such as anemones, are also present alongside a variety of crustaceans and fish species, including the small spotted cat shark (Scyliorhinus canicula) and Angler fish (Lophius piscatorius).

Further detail on the evidence for this MCZ can be found on the Evidence tab.


Site location:  Coordinates for this MCZ can be found in the Designation Order listed in the Relevant Documentation.

Site area:  1613.5km2

Site depth range:  85 -105m

Charting Progress 2 biogeographic region - Western Channel & Celtic Seas

Site boundary description
The site is a simple polygon with six boundary lines running south west to north east in line with the guidance provided by the MCZ project Ecological Network Guidance (ENG). The southern boundary of the site aligns with the UK Continental Shelf boundary. The boundary of the Western Channel MCZ has not changed since it was recommended by the Finding Sanctuary Regional MCZ Project in 2011.



Site specific data
There are a range of data that underpin this MCZ. The full overview of these data used to support site identification along with information on confidence in feature presence and extent is available in JNCC’s Tranche Two MCZ pre-consultation and post-consultation scientific advice for offshore Marine Conservation Zones proposed for designation in 2016.

JNCC will be adding relevant survey data for this MPA to the JNCC Interactive MPA Map  in due course.

Some of  the data for this MCZ has been collected through JNCC funded or collaborative surveys and some through other means. These data provide direct evidence confirming the presence of the protected features within the site.


Survey and data gathering

  • Western Channel MCZ MB0120 Survey - 2016
    JNCC collaborated on an MCZ site verification survey with Cefas to Western Channel MCZ funded through the MB0120 Defra data collection programme.  Ground-truthing and acoustic data were collected across the majority of the site.


Data analysis reports
Analysis of data gathered as part of the survey  listed above, as well as other relevant data analysis products, are available via the following reports:

  • British Geological Survey Particle Size Analysis (PSA) Data Points
    Particle Size Analysis of historical data was used to identify habitat type and converted to the EUNIS broadscale habitats by JNCC. The data suggest subtidal coarse sediment occurs within the site.
  • Western Channel MCZ Summery Site Report - Report available in due course
    The data from the 2012 verification surveys have been analysed by Cefas. The analysis confirmed the presence of subtidal sand and subtidal coarse sediments. Moderate energy circalittoral rock and subtidal mixed sediments, which are not currently protected features of the site, were also identified.
  • EUSeaMap  - Last updated in 2014
    A predictive seabed habitat mapping report for European waters, offering supporting information on the presence and extent of sedimentary features within Fulmar MCZ.
  • Community Analysis of Western Channel MCZ data – Report 593 2016
    JNCC undertook a community analysis of grab and video data to establish biotopes. The results show the following biotopes are present at the site:

• SS.SCS.CCS.Blan: A5.145 Branchiostoma lanceolatum in circalittoral coarse sand with shell gravel

• SS.SCS. CCS / CR.MCR.EcCr.CarSp: A5.14 circalittoral coarse sediment / A4.212 Caryophyllia smithii, sponges and crustose communities on wave-exposed circalittoral rock

References for further supporting scientific literature consulted during the identification of this site can be found in the annexes of our advice.


Knowledge gaps
If you are aware of any additional data or relevant scientific papers for this site not listed in the relevant documentation, including our Tranche Two MCZ pre-consultation and post consultation scientific advice documents, please contact JNCC.



MPA Conservation Advice

Conservation objectives
Conservation objectives set out the desired state for the protected feature(s) of an MPA.

The conservation objectives for the protected features of an MPA are useful if you are:

• planning measures to conserve the site and its protected features;
• monitoring the condition of the protected features; or
• developing, proposing or assessing an activity, plan or project that may affect the protected features of the site


The Conservation Objectives for the protected features of Fulmar MCZ are:

Subject to natural change, the Subtidal coarse sediment and Subtidal sand features are to remain in or be brought into favourable condition, such that:

     • its extent is stable or increasing; and

     • its structures and functions, its quality, and the composition of its characteristic biological communities are such as to ensure that it is in a condition which is healthy and not deteriorating.

More information regarding the conservation objectives for the protected features of Fulmar MCZ is available in the site Designation Order. In addition to the conservation objectives above, General Management Approaches (GMAs) have been set by JNCC for each feature which provide a view as to whether a feature needs to be maintained in or be brought into favourable condition i.e. recover, based on our knowledge about its condition. For more information on the General Management Approach for MCZs see Defra’s MCZ Designation Explanatory Note.


The GMAs for the protected features of the MPA are :

Subtidal coarse sediment: Recover to favourable condition

Subtidal sand: Recover to favourable condition

More information on the GMA for the features in Fulmar MCZ is provided in JNCC’s Tranche Two MCZ pre-consultation and post-consultation scientific advice to Defra .

Advice on operations 

Section 127 of the Marine & Coastal Access Act (2009) states that JNCC may provide advice and guidance regarding matters capable of damaging or otherwise affecting the protected features of an MCZ.

JNCC has published the following advice on activities which are capable of damaging or otherwise affecting protected features in MCZs:

• MCZ Fisheries Advice  (joint advice with Natural England);
• MCZ Licensed activities Advice  (joint advice with Natural England); and
• JNCC's pre-consultation and post-consultation scientific advice for Tranche Two MCZs.

JNCC provides a list of activities occurring within the Fulmar MCZ and information on management within the activities and management tab. JNCC has provided this to aid the cumulative assessment of impacts of human activities within the site.  While every attempt has been made to ensure this information is accurate and kept up-to-date, the list is not to be considered exhaustive or definitive. The list does not, for example, include activities occurring off-site which may also be capable of affecting the protected features.

For the most up-to-date information about the biological communities present within the site and their spatial distribution, please see the evidence tab. Sensitivity information for the protected features within the site can be found in a Technical Report  commissioned by Defra to support the MCZ designation process.

The information contained within the evidence tab, the activities and management tab, the Technical Report and the advice listed above on activities which are capable of damaging or otherwise affecting the protected features in MCZs are useful if you are:

• carrying out any activity that may impact the protected features of the site, and need to find out how to operate within the law
• an authority providing advice on specific proposals
• an authority responsible for putting management measures in place

Our scientific understanding of the ecology of the protected features of the site and how activities can affect them may change over time. Similarly the activities taking place within the site may also change. JNCC’s conservation advice will be kept under review and will be periodically updated to reflect this. Further information on JNCC’s conservation advice work is available on the offshore MPA conservation advice webpage.



Activities known to be currently occurring within this MPA
(Activities information correct as of November 2015)


Licensed activities:

Existing licensed activities that take place within Fulmar MPA will continue to be managed in line with relevant legislation and application processes by the competent authorities.  Information on JNCC's role in the provision of advice for licensed activities in the UK offshore area is available on the offshore industries advice webpages



  • Demersal - The main fishing practices in the area involve the towing of mobile demersal gear (beam, otter and Nephrops trawls),
  • Potting – Some potting activity occurs within the site boundary,

Fisheries operating within the site are subject to all fisheries management under the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). However, there are no site-specific fisheries management currently in place to protect the designated features of this site. As the site falls outside the UK’s territorial waters any management will be delivered exclusively through the EU Common Fisheries Policy. It is likely that any request for management, where necessary, will be developed jointly between the UK and any Member States with a direct management interest.

CFP fisheries management within the site prevents the retention of Norway Pout caught with towed gear all year round.


Other activities:

  • Shipping – Low levels of shipping traffic cross the site. 

Under international law, ships have a rite of passage at sea including in areas designated as MPAs (unless management specifies the restriction of ship transiting as outlined through an International Maritime Organisation measure).  The pressures associated with shipping activity within [Western Channel MCZ are not considered likely to impact the protected features of the site.


Management Plan: JNCC is undertaking a review of management plan requirements for offshore MPAs. Further detail will be provided at a later date.
Management Group: MPA Management National Steering Group

Further information on activities and feature sensitivity to these pressures can be found under the Conservation Advice tab.




MPA Monitoring

JNCC is currently leading on the development of a strategy for biodiversity monitoring across all UK waters, to include MPA monitoring. For MPAs, data and evidence collected from monitoring activities will aim to:

  • Enable assessment of condition of the features within sites; 
  • Enable assessment of the degree to which management measures are effective in achieving the conservation objectives for the protected features; 
  • Support the identification of priorities for future protection and/or management; and
  • Enable Government to fulfil its national and international assessment and reporting commitments in relation to MPAs and help identify where further action may be required.

Information on monitoring of this MPA will be provided when it becomes available.



MPA Assessment

Assessments of the condition of designated features in offshore MPAs are required to report against our legal obligations. Ideally these assessments should be based on observed data, and then measured against targets for predefined indicators. However, for MPAs in offshore waters we do not always have the appropriate information to be able to do so. This is particularly true for seabed habitats, which are the main type of feature designated for protection in offshore MPAs. 

To address these challenges, JNCC has been an active partner in the development of new approaches and tools for the assessment of habitats and species for a variety of national and international status reports. They include the second cycle of the Conservation Status Assessment reports under the EU Habitats Directive, Charting Progress 2 (CP2) and the OSPAR Quality Status Report (QSR). JNCC continues to develop and pilot tools for the assessment of marine habitats and species in offshore waters to improve the quality and transparency of our offshore MPA assessments, and contribute to the monitoring of marine biodiversity in UK waters. These tools cover methods for producing interim assessments of site features and their responses to pressures, as well as developing more robust indicators for determining condition of the features.

Under the UK Marine & Coastal Access (2009), JNCC is required to report to Ministers on the degree to which the conservation objectives of the protected features of Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) have been achieved.  Every 6 years from 2012, the Marine Act requires a report setting out how MCZs have performed against their conservation objectives, as well as the effectiveness of the network as a whole. 

The assessments of features within MPAs will also feed into six yearly reports on the state of the marine environment under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD), which aims to achieve Good Environmental Status (GES) by 2020.






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