Formal updated conservation advice is now available for Stanton Banks SAC under the conservation advice tab below.


Stanton Banks MPA


Status: Special Area of Conservation (SAC)

Click to link to the interactive map


Stanton Banks are a series of granite ridges up to 160m tall that protrude from the seabed at 190m deep and are located south of the Outer Hebrides.


The tops of these ridges are smooth and covered in encrusting species, such as red algae and small sponges. The inter-connecting gullies are filled with rippled coarse shell sand. The rougher sides of the ridges support species, such as featherstars, dead man's fingers and hydroids. The smoother lower regions of the banks provide habitat for barnacles, brittlestars, cup-shaped sponges and massive sponges. On the edges of the ridges there are boulders and cobbles covered by coralline algae and keel worms.


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

Protected features

Feature 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 at the top of the page and in JNCC's MPA mapper, with the evidence underpinning available in the Evidence tab.

Site timeline

The diagram below is a summary of the key milestones involved in the selection and designation of Stanton Banks SAC. More detail can be found within the Relevant Documentation.

Stanton Banks Timeline

Relevant Documentation

The documents referred to below and any other historical documents relating to Stanton Banks SAC were produced during the selection and designation process and therefore may be out of date.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. Information about the SAC site selection process is available on JNCCs SAC pages.





Last updated: October 2017


Information for this site summary was adapted from the SAC selection assessment and incorporates any further information gathered since this document was produced.

Site overview

Stanton Banks SAC is located in the Scottish Continental Shelf south of the Outer Hebrides and lies approximately 124km west of the UK mainland, 43km west-south-west of Tiree and 83km north-north-east of Malin Head, Ireland). Surveys of the Stanton Banks reef has shown it to be a rocky landscape criss-crossed by deep gullies. Although the rocky outcrops have been rounded by glacial action, they remain deeply fissured and extremely rugged.


The bedrock outcrops are heavily encrusted with coralline algae, keel worms and brittlestars such as Ophiura albida, with clusters of sponges including cup shaped axinellid sponges (Axinella infundifiliformis) in places. On the slopes, there is a transition from smooth bedrock to fissured rock outcrops, boulder and cobble with featherstars (Leptometra celtica), dead man’s fingers (Alcyonium digitatum) and robust hydroids (Tubularia spp.). The lower circalittoral zone of the Stanton Banks is characterised by smooth, silty bedrock dominated by extensive encrusting coralline red algae, numerous barnacles, brittlestars, small sponge crusts (including Hymedesmia paupertas), cup-shaped axinellid sponges (A. infundibuliformis) and massive sponges (Mycale lingua and Pachymatisma johnstonia). Starfish (such as Luidia ciliaris , Porania pulvillus , Crossaster papposus) and sea urchins (Echinus esculentus) are also common.


Surrounding the Annex 1 rocky reef feature, the banks are fringed with stony reef comprising of boulders and cobbles, graduating into coarse and mixed sediments. Many of the cobbles are covered by encrusting sponges (including Hymedesmia paupertas), hydroids and bryozoans. Crabs (Cancer pagarus) and squat lobsters (Galatheoidea) are also present. There have been reports of cold-water coral at the site, but currently JNCC has no direct evidence to support this. 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 (2015).

Site area: 817.27km2, a similar size to the Isle of Mull (870km2).

Site depth range: The rocky outcrops rise from the seabed at 190m below sea level to approximately 30m below sea level, encompassing a vertical rise of approximately 160m. The major gullies within the site are approximately 100m wide and up to 30m deep, with other minor gullies typically measuring 20-40m wide.

Charting progress 2 region: Scottish Continental Shelf.


Site boundary description: The site boundary is a complex 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 features as possible, rather than being located at the nearest whole degree or minute point. The proposed boundary includes a margin to allow for mobile gear on the seabed being at some distance from the location of a vessel on the sea surface. The maximum depth of water around the feature is 190m; therefore, assuming a ratio of 3:1 fishing warp length to depth, the proposed boundary is defined to include a margin of 570m from the bedrock reef.




Last updated: October 2017


For a full overview of the data used to support site identification, along with information on confidence in feature presence and extent see the Stanton Banks SAC selection assessment. Data for this SAC have been primarily collected through JNCC-funded or collaborative surveys with other data obtained through other data sourcing. The data gathered provide direct evidence confirming the presence of the protected features within the site. Additional survey data will be added to JNCC's MPA mapper in due course.


Survey and data gathering

  • RV Scotia Survey (2013) - This survey, led by Marine Scotland opportunistically collected more acoustic data to improve our understanding of the distribution and extent of the bank features in this site.
  • NLV Polestar C5816 Survey (2012) - The main aim of this JNCC collaboration was to acquire acoustic and ground-truthing data at Stanton Banks SAC to confirm the presence and extent of Annex I stony and bedrock reef. Additional biological data were also collected to develop a baseline for future monitoring.
  • Rockall-North Channel Geophysical CD174 Survey (2005) - This survey was led by the British Geological Survey to collect acoustic data on the topography of the seabed at Stanton Banks and the surrounding area. This survey also gathered geophysical data using a sparker system, a pinger and a precision echosounder.
  • Stanton Banks Surveys (2005 and 2006) - Further survey was undertaken by the North Western Shelf consortium, as part of the Mapping European Seabed Habitats project in 2005 and 2006. This included multibeam survey of three further areas and biological ground-truthing using drop-down video and remotely operated vehicles.
  • Blackstone Surveys (2003 and 2004) - A collaborative survey between JNCC and the Department for Agriculture and Rural Development, Northern Ireland on the RV Lough Foyle. Two areas of Stanton Banks were surveyed acoustically to characterise the topography of the seabed. Biological ground-truthing of these areas using video tows and camera images confirmed the presence of bedrock reef and the biological communities associated with bedrock reef. Additional ground-truthing data were collected in 2004, however, poor weather limited the amount of data collected.


Data analysis reports
Further analysis of data gathered as part of the surveys listed above are available via the following reports:

  • Blackstone banks and Stanton Banks habitat mapping (2009) - Provides the results of the analysis of survey data collected during the 2003 and 2004 JNCC collaborative surveys of the Stanton Banks.
  • Report on a survey over Stanton Bank 4 for MESH (2006) - The British Geological Rockall-North Channel survey data were analysed by Stewart and Long (2006) to improve coverage over the site and surrounding area. The geophysical data collected are discussed in the report, and provide more information on the geological history of the site. A new geological feature may also have been identified. 
  • Community analysis - From the analysis of video and stills from the 2006 survey, the following biotopes were found on Stanton Banks:

CR.MCR.EcCr.FaAlCr.Bri (EUNIS A4.2144): Brittlestars on faunal and algal encrusted exposed to moderately wave-exposed circalittoral rock;

CR.MCR.EcCr.FaAlCr (EUNIS A4.214): Faunal and algal crusts on exposed to moderately wave-exposed circalittoral rock and CGS: Cobbles, Gravels and Sands.


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 which is of interest in relation to this MPA, they do not necessarily represent the views of JNCC:

  • Eden et al. (1971) Geological investigations with a manned submersible in the Irish Sea and off western Scotland. Report of the Institute of Geological Sciences, 73 (2): 27. An account of a series of dives in a manned submersible undertaken in 1971 to Stanton Banks and the surrounding area.
  • Blondel and Gomez Sichi (2009) Textural analyses of multibeam sonar from Stanton Banks, Northern Ireland continental shelf. Applied Acoustics, 70 (10): 1288-1297. Presents textural analyses of multibeam sonar data that was collected as part of the Blackstone and Stanton Banks survey undertaken as part of the MESH project in 2005. When compared with multibeam sonar that was collected at the site in 2006, the textural analyses were able to detect trawlmarks and distinguish between different sediment types.


Knowledge gaps
If you are aware of any additional data or relevant scientific papers for this site not listed here, please contact JNCC.


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 advice reflects the most up-to-date evidence held by JNCC (correct as of February 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.


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:


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


Although a baseline monitoring survey took place in 2012, information on the long-term recovery of Annex 1 reef in this site is scarce. Fisheries management measures are in development for the site but not yet implemented, and ongoing site condition monitoring work will be required to conclude with confidence as to the degree to which the site is moving towards or achieving its conservation objectives.


This site forms part of the UKs 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 Stanton Banks 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 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 feature of the site. The protected feature of the site is considered to be sensitive to pressures associated with fishing and ‘licensable’ activities.



  • There is evidence of mobile demersal effort, specifically potting, creeling and seine netting, within the MPA and UK and non-UK registered vessels have been active in the area.
  • The site falls outside 12 nm 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 can be found on Marine Scotland’s Fisheries Management in Offshore SACs webpage.


Licensable activities

  • Whilst ‘licensable’ activities such as oil and gas exploration and production do not take place within Stanton Banks SAC at present, 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 the JNCC's role in the provision of advice for licensed activities in the UK offshore area is available on the JNCC's offshore industries advice webpage.


Site condition monitoring

A baseline monitoring survey took place in 2012 but site condition monitoring surveys are yet to take place within this MPA. Further information will be made available under the Monitoring tab in due course.


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. The site has a ‘restore’ conservation objective based on the findings of a vulnerability assessment which suggests the site is unlikely to be moving towards its conservation objectives. Further information is provided in the Assessment tab.




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. For SACs, 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 the 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: October 2017


Assessments of the condition of designated features in offshore MPAs are required to report against our legal obligations. Ideally these assessments are based on observed data, and then measured against targets for predefined indicators. However, for MPAs in offshore waters the appropriate information is not always available particularly for seabed habitats, which are the main type of designated features within offshore MPAs.


To address these challenges, JNCC has been an active partner in developing new approaches and tools for the assessment of habitats and species for a variety of national and international status reports. 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. The reports include the second cycle of the Conservation Status Assessments under the EU Habitats Directive, Charting Progress 2 and the OSPAR Quality Status Report. 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 assessments, and contribute to the monitoring of marine biodiversity in UK waters.


Every six years, member states are also 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. These assessments will also feed into six yearly reports on the state of the marine environment under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, which aims to achieve Good Environmental Status by 2020.



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