JNCC have prepared updated formal conservation advice for Haig Fras SAC. Further information is available on the Conservation Advice tab below



Haig Fras MPA



Status: Special Area of Conservation (SAC)


Haig Fras is an isolated underwater granite rock outcrop in the Celtic Sea, 95 kilometres north-west of the Isles of Scilly.


It is the only recorded substantial area of rocky reef in the Celtic Sea beyond the coastal margin and inshore waters. It supports a variety of fauna ranging from jewel anemones and solitary corals near the peak of the outcrop to encrusting sponges, crinoids and ross coral colonies towards the base of the rock (where boulders surround its edge). The area of reef feature within the site boundary is approximately 175 km2. The rock type is granite, mostly smooth with occasional fissures, approximately 45 km long and in one area rises to a peak which lies just 38 m beneath the sea surface. The surrounding seabed is approximately 118 m deep, with small dispersed patches of rocky outcropping within the surrounding circalittoral sand and coarse sediment.


More detailed information can be found on the Summary tab.

Click to link to the interactive map















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: EU Habitats Directive 1992 transposed into UK law by the Conservation of Offshore Marine Habitats and Species Regulations 2017.


Protected features

Features Feature Type
1170 Reefs Annex I habitat*


*For the latest Annex I habitat resource figures, please see the link to the latest Habitats Directive Article 17 reporting in the Assessment tab.


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 Haig Fras SAC.  More detail can be found within the relevant documentation listed below.

Haig Fras Timeline

Relevant Documentation

The documents referred to below and any other historical documents relating to Haig Fras SAC were produced during the selection and designation process and therefore may be out of date.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.



The original boundary site documents were superseded by the those above due to a boundary amendment in 2015, however these were correct at the point of selection and submission of the site to the European Commission in 2008.  Information about the SAC site selection process is available on the JNCC SAC pages.




Last updated: October 2017


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


Site overview
The granite rock exposure known as Haig Fras measures about 45km by 15km and protrudes above the surrounding sediment seabed, with the main shoal pinnacle rising to within 38m of the sea surface. A survey undertaken in 2000 over the main platform and the shoal showed that distinct biotopes were associated with both the rock habitat and the sediment ‘pockets’ which occur on the platform area. Around the base of the shoal, boulders and cobbles partially embedded in sediment provide a complex habitat.

On the uppermost parts of the Haig Fras shoal, the exposed bedrock is dominated by jewel anemones Corynactis viridis but also supports encrusting sponges and bryozoans, as well as mobile fauna such as the sea urchin Echinus esculentus and gastropod mollusc Calliostoma spp. At the shallowest depth surveyed (approximately 52m), small patches of encrusting pink coralline algae were observed, indicating that the peak of the shoal protrudes into the photic zone. At depths of between 60 m and 70 m, the shoal bedrock was slightly covered in silt and was not widely colonised except by cup corals Caryophyllia smithii (which are abundant) and a few mobile species such as the urchin Echinus esculentus, Calliostoma spp. and crinoids (Antedon spp.). High numbers of cup corals were also seen on parts of the rock platform away from the shoal. At the base of the shoal, the rock was covered with a thin layer of fine calcareous sand and mud and supported cup sponges, erect branching sponges, Caryophyllia smithii and crinoids. The boulders and cobbles around the base of the shoal supported encrusting sponges, Caryophyllia smithii and crinoids in low numbers; brittlestars, squat lobster (Munida spp.) and the ross coral Pentapora fascialis were also present. Further detail on the evidence for this SAC can be found on the Evidence tab.


Site location:  Coordinates for this SAC can be found in the Natura 2000 Standard Data Form listed in the Relevant Documentation.

Site area:  476 km².

Site depth range:  Depth of the site ranges from 39m below sea level to 107m below sea level.

Charting Progress 2 Biogeographic Region: Western Channel and Celtic Sea.


Site boundary description

When the site was designated in 2008, the boundary enclosed the predicted extent of Annex I reef to the best of our knowledge at the time, drawn following the JNCC SAC boundary guidance.  However, analysis of data from the 2011 and 2012 surveys of the site improved our knowledge of the presence and extent of the reef feature. JNCC concluded that the existing boundary wasn’t appropriate to protect the full extent of the feature.


In 2015 the UK submitted a revised boundary that enclosed the full extent of the reef feature, as indicated by the available evidence. The boundary is a polygon enclosing the minimum area necessary to ensure protection of the Annex I habitat. Coordinate points have been positioned as close to the edge of the interest feature as possible, rather than being located at the nearest whole degree or minute point. The boundary includes a margin to allow for mobile fishing gear on the seabed being at some distance from the location of a vessel at the sea surface. The maximum depth of water around the feature is 110m; therefore, assuming a ratio of 3:1 fishing warp length to depth, the proposed boundary is defined to include a margin of approximately 330m from the bedrock reef.    




Last updated: March 2018


Click to link to the interactive map

There is a range of data that underpin this SAC. All data that can be made publicly available is displayed on the map below. Click on the map to go to the JNCC UK MPA Interactive map where you can view the data and find out more about the evidence underpinning this site. 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 Haig Fras SAC Selection Assessment Document. Some of the data for this SAC has been collected through JNCC funded or collaborative surveys and some through other means.  Data from this survey provides direct evidence confirming the presence of the protected features within the site.


Survey and data gathering

  • JNCC/Cefas survey of Haig Fras SAC (2015) - JNCC and Cefas undertook a survey of Haig Fras collecting a range of data for the site, including video, stills and particle size data, for MPA monitoring purposes.
  • National Oceanography Centre (NOC) Southampton, CODEMAP2015 (2015) - NOC Southampton collected video and photography data from near-vertical wall and overhanging reef substrates within Haig Fras SAC using Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) deployed from RRS James Cook (cruise code, CODEMAP2015).
  • JNCC/Cefas Greater Haig Fras rMCZ Survey (2012) - Additional acoustic and groundtruthing data,  including video and stills and particle size samples, were collected within HaigFras SAC as part of a site verification survey for the surrounding Greater Haig Fras MCZ.
  • JNCC/Cefas survey of Haig Fras SAC  (2011) - JNCC and Cefas undertook a marine survey that integrated biodiversity and other environmental monitoring on the same cruise. This was to trial novel techniques for survey planning and sample stratification as well as to collect data for specific monitoring requirements.

Data analysis reports

  • Mapping of the Haig Fras SAC (2015) - Survey data collected in 2011 and 2012 by JNCC and Cefas were analysed to map the full extent of reefs at Haig Fras. Updated maps depicting the distribution of identified EUNIS habitat types and Annex I reefs are presented.
  • Greater Haig Fras rMCZ post-survey site report (MB0120) (2015) - The Greater Haig Fras rMCZ surrounds and overlaps Haig Fras SAC, the maps and analysis presented in this report include the area of Haig Fras SAC/SCI. This report provides an updated map of the presence and estimated extent of habitats within the Greater Haig Fras rMCZ. Survey data to support this were collected jointly by Cefas and the JNCC and Gardline Geosurvey personnel at the Greater Haig Fras rMCZ site during July 2012 and March 2014, respectively.


Additional relevant literature

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


MPA Conservation Advice


Last updated: March 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 a Habitats Regulation Assessment (HRA) for a plan or project that could impact the site;
  • provide information for a HRA;
  •  respond to specific measures to support delivery of 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 updated advice replaces the previous Regulation 18 package for the site.  This advice reflects the most up-to-date evidence held by JNCC (correct as of March 2018).  A zipped folder enabling these documents to be downloaded together is available at the bottom of this page.




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.

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


Please note our current understanding of whether the available evidence indicates that each attribute needs to be restored or maintained is not provided here. However, links to available evidence for the site are provided and should you require further site-specific information for the site, please contact JNCC at: offshorempas@jncc.gov.uk.

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.






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Activities and Management


Last updated: October 2017


Management status: Progressing towards being well managed


The vulnerability assessment conducted for this site suggests it is unlikely to be moving towards its conservation objectives, but directed site condition monitoring data are required to improve our confidence in this assessment. Progress is ongoing with regards to the recommendation of fisheries management proposals to the European Commission and a baseline monitoring survey of Haig Fras was undertaken in 2015 (Callaway, 2015), the results of which will be available in due course.


This site forms part of the UK’s contribution to the OSPAR commissions network of MPAs, Europe’s Natura 2000 network and the Emerald network established under the Bern Convention. As the UK is a signatory to 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 Haig Fras SAC around each of the 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 JNCC’s 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 feature of the site. The protected feature of the site is considered to be sensitive to pressures associated with fishing and ‘licensable’ activities.



  • Mobile and static demersal fishing gear are used within the site. Static gear is more commonly used over the reef itself. Pelagic hook-lining and fish netting also take place.
  • The site falls outside the UK’s 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.
  • The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) are the lead authority regarding the implementation of, and compliance with, any measures to manage fishing activity. Further information on progress is available via MMO webpages.


Licensable activities

  • Licensable activities such as oil and gas exploration and production do not take place within Haig Fras SAC at present, but any future proposals would have to comply with Article 6(3) of the EU Habitats Directive 1992, which is transposed into UK law by the Conservation of Offshore Marine Habitats and Species Regulations 2017.
  • Our conservation advice supports the consents process by setting out the conservation objectives for the protected feature of this MPA and advice on activities that may result in pressures to which the protected feature is considered sensitive.
  • Further information on JNCC’s role in the provision of advice for licensed activities in the UK offshore area is available on JNCC’s offshore industries advice webpage

Site condition monitoring

A baseline condition monitoring survey was undertaken in 2015 (reported in Callaway, 2015). Full results from this survey will be provided on the Monitoring tab in due course.


Assessment of progress towards conservation objectives

No long-term condition monitoring data are available to determine whether the MPA is moving towards or has reached its conservation objectives. The site has a ‘restore’ conservation objective based on a vulnerability assessment that examined exposure to activities associated with pressures to which the protected feature of the site is considered sensitive. This suggests the site is unlikely to be moving towards its conservation objective and that management measures may be required to meet this objective. Site condition monitoring data will improve our confidence in this assessment and the results of the 2015 monitoring survey will inform future progress assessments. Further information will be provided in the Assessment tab as it becomes available.




Last updated: October 2017


JNCC is currently leading on the development of a strategy for biodiversity monitoring across all UK waters, to include MPA monitoring. Data and evidence collected from MPA 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.


In May 2015, a monitoring survey was undertaken within Haig Fras SAC aboard the R/V Cefas Endeavour. The aim of the survey was to collect the first dataset in a monitoring time-series, enabling a better understanding of long-term patterns in benthic fauna. Links to the cruise report and monitoring report will be provided here when they have been published. 




Last updated: October 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.


Every six years, Member States are required under Article 17 of the EU Habitats Directive to report on the Conservation Status of Annex I habitats and Annex II species on the Habitats Directive.  The assessments should consider the habitat or species both within the Natura 2000 network and in the wider sea.  The latest report was submitted by the UK in 2013 and provided a second assessment of the conservation status of relevant habitats and species within UK marine waters during 2007-2012. The next report is for the period 2013-2018 and is due in 2019; information on the condition of features within SACs will make a contribution to this report. 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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