Thursday 13 March 2014

Survey to Swallow Sands MCZ, Farnes East rMCZ and the Fladen Grounds

On the 13th March 2014 a 19 day survey commenced aboard the RV Cefas Endeavour to Farnes East rMCZ and Swallow Sand MCZ in English offshore waters and the Fladen Grounds in Scottish offshore waters. The survey will both be collecting evidence to underpin development of MCZ advice to Government and, in Scottish waters, collecting evidence for Scottish Government to better understand feature condition (especially seapen and burrowing megafaunal communities) across a surface abrasion pressure gradient.

Farnes East rMCZ is a site which is currently being considered within a second tranche of MCZs to be designated in 2015. The survey will visit the site in the northern North Sea to collect data to verify the presence of moderate energy circalittoral rock and peat and clay exposures within the site. Swallow Sand MCZ is the largest of all recommended MCZs, and was designated in November 2013. The survey to Swallow Sand MCZ also located in the northern North Sea will collect evidence to better determine the spatial extent of mud within the north-west corner of the site.

Within the Fladen Grounds, three possible Nature Conservation MPAs were consulted on in summer 2013; Central Fladen pMPA, Western Fladen pMPA and South-east Fladen pMPA. These areas have been identified to protect components of the feature ‘Burrowed mud’. The Central Fladen pMPA includes seapens and burrowing megafauna and the tall sea pen Funiculina quadrangularis, with Western and South-east Fladen pMPAs identified as science-based alternatives to the representation of the seapens and burrowing megafauna contained within the Central Fladen pMPA. Burrowed mud habitats can contain a range of creatures like seapens (a type of soft coral), fireworks anemones, amphipods and burrowing megafauna such as the Dublin Bay Prawn Nephrops norvegicus. Scottish Ministers will make decisions on designation of pMPAs following consideration of the consultation responses.