Updated conservation advice is now available for Norwegian Boundary Sediment Plain Nature Conservation MPA under the Conservation Advice tab below


Norwegian Boundary Sediment Plain MPA


Status: Nature Conservation Marine Protected Area (NCMPA)


Located to the east of Scotland in offshore waters, the Norwegian Boundary Sediment Plain MPA lies adjacent to the offshore limit of UK waters.


A sandy plain in relatively shallow waters, the MPA includes records of the OSPAR Threatened and/or Declining species – ocean quahog (Arctica islandica). This thick-shelled clam can live for more than 400 years, making it one of the longest-living creatures on Earth. Like tree rings, the age of ocean quahog can be determined by counting the shell layers that form each year, which also provide information on how our climate has changed over time


More detailed site information can be found on the Summary tab.


Map displaying MPA boundary and

associated protected feature data.

Visit the JNCC MPA Mapper to further

view and explore data for this MPA.


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


Protected features

Features Feature Type

Ocean quahog aggregations

(including sands and gravels as their supporting habitat)   

Low or limited mobility species 


The acquisition of new data may result in updates to our knowledge on feature presence and extent within this site. The most up to date information is reflected on the map on this page and in JNCC’s MPA mapper and the evidence underpinning this can be viewed in the Evidence tab.

Site Timeline

The diagram below is a summary of the key milestones involved in the selection and designation of Norwegian Boundary Sediment Plain NCMPA.  More detail can be found within the Relevant Documentation.

Relevant Documentation

The documents referred to below and any other historical documents relating to Norwegian Boundary Sediment Plain NCMPA were produced during the selection and designation process and therefore may be out of date.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. Information about the Nature Conservation MPA site selection process is available on the JNCC NCMPA pages.





Last updated: June 2017


The information for this site summary was adapted from documents listed in the Relevant Documentation section and incorporates any further information gathered since these documents were produced.


Site overview
The Norwegian Boundary Sediment Plain MPA is home to a range of animals that live both in and on the sand and gravel habitats such as starfish, crabs, and the long-lived ocean quahog (Arctica islandica); the latter of which is considered to be Threatened and/or Declining across the North-east Atlantic by the OSPAR Commission. Ocean quahog filter food from passing currents and can use a shovel-like foot to bury into the sediment. To escape predators, they can burrow deep into the sediment and live for long periods of time without food or oxygen. Ocean quahog are an important food source for several species of fish including cod. Although they are not specific to one type of habitat, sands and gravels are the ocean quahogs' preferred habitat. The main threat to ocean quahog is disturbance of the sea bed, most often from bottom fishing activities, but licensed activities, such as oil, gas and aggregate extraction, can also directly and indirectly affect this species.


To support the protection of ocean quahog, offshore subtidal sand and gravel habitats are also protected in the context of providing habitat suitable for ocean quahog colonisation. Ocean quahog are typically found buried in medium to fine grained sands, sandy mud and silty sand in water depths of 4-400m. Survey data records from the MPA have confirmed the presence of ocean quahog within the depth range and sediment types in which they are expected to occur. 


There are two other MPAs within the Northern North Sea biogeographic region that contain ocean quahog aggregations and their associated habitat as a protected feature. These are East of Gannet and Montrose Fields MPA, which is situated 55 km south west of the site, and the Firth of Forth Banks Complex MPA, which is 220 km to the south west. Together these sites increase the replication, and therefore the resilience, of this protected feature in the MPA network. Further detail on the evidence for this NCMPA can be found on the Evidence tab.


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

Site area:  164 km2.

Site depth range:  The site ranges in depth from 120m below sea level to 80m below sea level.

Charting Progress 2 Biogeographic Region: Northern North Sea.


Site boundary description

The MPA boundary was drawn to include both surveyed records of ocean quahog and areas of sediments considered suitable for ocean quahog colonisation.




Last updated: February 2017


The full overview of the data used to support site identification along with information on confidence in feature presence and extent is available in the Norwegian Boundary Sediment Plain NCMPA Data Confidence Assessment. JNCC will be adding relevant data for this MPA to the JNCC MPA mapper when it becomes available. Some of the data for this MPA has been collected through a JNCC funded survey. Data from this survey will provide evidence to confirm the presence of the protected features within the site. Other data available for this MPA have been generated through JNCC collection of third-party data and use of predictive seabed habitat mapping information. These data provide direct evidence supporting the presence of the protected features within the site.


Survey and data gathering

  • East of Gannet and Montrose Fields and Norwegian Boundary Sediment Plain seabed monitoring survey (2015) - This survey was a collaboration between JNCC and Marine Scotland Science. Grab samples were collected to form the first point in a monitoring time-series, allowing the JNCC to monitor the rate and direction of long-term change in ocean quahog aggregations.
  • Further evidence that supports our understanding of sediment type in the site has been derived from Particle Size Analysis data that has been sourced from partner organisations, including the British Geological Survey. Operators connected to the oil and gas industry in the Northern North Sea have provided data that supports the presence of ocean quahog aggregations within the MPA boundary.


Data analysis reports

  • Cruise Report from the East of Gannet and Montrose Fields and Norwegian Boundary Sediment Plain seabed monitoring survey (2016) - This report details the preliminary field observations of the seabed monitoring survey of East of Gannet and Montrose Fields NCMPA and Norwegian Boundary Sediment Plain NCMPA conducted by JNCC and Marine Scotland Science. These observations have not been quality assured and so have not been used to support the presence and extent of ocean quahog aggregations and offshore deep sea mud. Data analysis and reporting is currently underway for the final report and this will be made available when complete.
  • EUSeaMap (2016) - Provides supporting information on the presence and extent of offshore subtidal sands and gravels from a predictive seabed habitat map of European waters.


Additional relevant literature

References for further supporting scientific literature consulted during the identification of this site can be found in the NCMPA Data Confidence Assessment. Please be aware that although these sources contain information in relation to this MPA, they do not necessarily represent the views of JNCC.


Knowledge gaps
If you are aware of any additional information not referred to in any of the Relevant Documentation listed on the main page, please contact JNCC.


Conservation Advice


Last updated: April 2018


Updated formal conservation advice is now available for this MPA.  Further information on the approach used to develop this advice is available on the Conservation Advice webpage along with a Glossary of Terms used in JNCC conservation advice and a short video explaining how to use the conservation advice packages. 


You must refer to this advice if you:

  • undertake an impact assessment for a plan or project that could impact the site;
  • provide information for such an assessment;
  •  respond to specific measures to further the conservation objectives for the site; and 
  • consider the need to put new or additional management measures in place.


You may also find it useful to refer to this advice if you:

  • Carry out any other activity that could impact the site.


We will engage with stakeholders to identify any lessons which JNCC can learn from customers who have used the advice, with a view to continuing to ensure it is fit-for-purpose.


The following table provides an overview of the components of the conservation advice, and provides hyperlinks to each of the products for this MPA. These elements together form JNCC’s formal conservation advice for this site and should be read in conjunction with each other. This advice reflects the most up-to-date evidence held by JNCC (correct as of April 2018). A zipped folder enabling these documents to be downloaded together is available at the bottom of this page.

Document Overview
Background Information Explains the purpose of the advice and when it must be referred to.
Conservation Objectives


Supplementary Advice on the Conservation Objectives (SACO)

The conservation objectives set out the broad ecological aims for the site. JNCC provide supplementary advice in the SACO which is essential reading to support interpretation of these conservation objectives. It provides further detail and site-specific information for each feature within the site including which of the attributes need to be conserved and which ones recovered.


You can use these documents to assess the impacts of your planned activity on the important attributes of the site.
Conservation Advice Statements

These statements provide a summary of the Supplementary Advice on the Conservation Objectives (SACO).


  • Site condition presents our up to date understanding of the condition of features within the site;
  • Conservation benefits which the site can provide, these help you understand what is important about the site and why it needs protecting; and
  • Conservation measures which JNCC consider are needed to support achievement of the conservation objectives. These provide clarity around measures needed to support restoration or maintenance of the feature(s) within the site.
Advice on Operations

Provides information on the activities capable of affecting site integrity and therefore achievement of the site’s conservation objectives.


This is a starting point for determining potential management requirements. It does not take into account the intensity, frequency or cumulative impacts from activities taking place. It is simply to advise you of the possible adverse impacts that your activity can have on a MPA’s features.


Use the advice on operations to determine those pressures your activity causes that could harm the habitat and/or species features of the site.




You will need the free Adobe Acrobat Reader to view this document.


Activities and Management


Last updated: April 2017


Management status: Progressing towards being well managed


Progress is ongoing with the recommendation for fisheries management proposals to the European Commission and ongoing site condition monitoring work will be required in order to conclude with confidence as to the degree to which the site is moving towards or achieving is conservation objectives.


This site forms part of the UKs contribution to the OSPAR commission’s network of MPAs and the Emerald network established under the Bern Convention. As the UK is a member of the OSPAR commission, JNCC are committed to ensuring that the OSPAR MPA network is ‘well-managed’ by 2020.


JNCC consider ‘well-managed’ to mean the timely progress of an MPA around the ‘MPA management cycle’. This involves:

  1. The documentation of appropriate management information - conservation objectives, advice on activities capable of affecting the protected features of a site, and spatial information on the presence and extent of the protected features of a site.
  2. The implementation of management measures - management actions considered necessary to achieve the conservation objectives of a site.
  3. Site condition monitoring programmes – collecting the information necessary to determine progress towards a sites conservation objectives.
  4. Assessment of progress towards conservation objectives – using available information to infer whether or not a site is moving towards or has achieved its conservation objectives.


The sub-sections that follow provide an account of the progress of Norwegian Boundary Sediment Plain NCMPA around each of these four stages in the MPA management cycle:


The documentation of appropriate management information

  • The conservation objectives and advice on activities capable of affecting the conservation status of the protected feature of this site are available under the conservation advice tab.
  • JNCC are in the process of improving our MPA conservation advice packages. Further information is available on our conservation advice pages.
  • Spatial information on the presence and extent of the protected feature of this MPA is available via JNCCs MPA mapper.
  • JNCC are in the process of developing downloadable MPA data packages where appropriate permissions to share datasets are in place.


The implementation of management measures

This section details progress towards the implementation of management measures for activities considered capable of affecting the conservation status of the protected features of the site. The protected features of the site are considered to be sensitive to pressures associated with fishing and ‘licensable’ activities.



  • There is evidence of  demersal seine netting and otter trawling within the MPA and UK and non-UK registered vessels have been active in the area.
  • The site falls outside the UKs 12 nautical mile limit and is to be exclusively managed under the EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). In accordance with Article 18 of the revised CFP, requests for management will be developed jointly between the UK Government and any Member States with a direct management interest in the area affected.
  • Marine Scotland are the lead authority regarding the implementation of, and compliance with, any measures to managing fishing activity. Further information on progress is available via Marine Scotland’s web pages.


Licensable activities

  • A considerable number of oil and gas developments are currently within the MPA, and the MPA overlaps with a number of license blocks identified by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (formally the Department of Energy and Climate Change)and so may be subject to further oil and gas development in the future. 
  • Licensable activities such as oil and gas exploration and production taking place or that may take place within this MPA are managed in accordance with the clauses set out under section 126 of The Marine & Coastal Access Act (2009). Under this clause, JNCC have a statutory responsibility to advise the regulator on developments that are capable of affecting (other than insignificantly) the protected features of the MPA and that may hinder the achievement of the sites conservation objectives. JNCC consider the existing marine licensing process is sufficient to ensure the management of licensable activities taking place, or that could take place in the future, on the protected features of this MPA.
  • For further information, see Marine Scotland’s draft MPA management handbook and Marine Scotland’s guidance for marine license applications
  • Further information on JNCCs role in the provision of advice for licensed activities in the UK offshore area is available on JNCCs offshore industries advice webpage


Site condition monitoring

A monitoring survey of the MPA took place in 2015. Data was collected to form the first point in a monitoring time-series, allowing for the assessment of the rate and direction of long-term change in ocean quahog aggregations. Further information is provided in the monitoring tab and the survey cruise report (O’Connor 2016).


Assessment of progress towards conservation objectives

No long-term condition monitoring data is available to determine whether the MPA is moving towards or has reached its conservation objectives. Further information will be provided under the assessment tab as it becomes available.




Last updated: February 2017


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.



Last updated: February 2017


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 Act (2009) , JNCC is required to report to Ministers on the degree to which the conservation objectives of the protected features of Nature Conservation MPAs (NCMPAs) have been achieved.  Every 6 years from 2012, the Marine Act requires a report setting out how NCMPAs 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.



Image Gallery

These images show examples of features that are present in Norwegian Boundary Sediment Plain NCMPA.



Return to Graphics version

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