JNCC have prepared updated conservation advice for North East of Farnes Deep MCZ. Further information is available on the Conservation Advice tab below


North East of Farnes Deep MPA


Status: Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ)

(Formerly known as ‘Rock Unique’)

Click to link to the interactive map


The North East of Farnes Deep is located approximately 55km offshore from the north Northumberland coast, in the northern North Sea.  The MCZ is located in an area of predominantly sandy sediment, and also includes patches of gravelly sand and mud.


The habitats within the MCZ are relatively stable and support a diverse range of marine flora and fauna such as anemones, worms, molluscs echinoderms and fish species. Additional features were designated within the North East of Farnes Deep MCZ in January 2016. These include the broad-scale habitats Subtidal mixed sediments and Subtidal mud, and the species Feature of Conservation Importance (FOCI) Ocean quahog (Arctica islandica).


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

EUNIS Code: Protected Features Feature Type
A5.1: Subtidal coarse sediment Broad-Scale Habitat
A5.2: Subtidal sand Broad-Scale Habitat
A5.4: Subtidal mixed sediments Broad-Scale Habitat
A5.3: Subtidal Mud Broad-Scale Habitat
Ocean quahog (Arctica islandica) Species Feature of Conservation Importance


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 the North East of Farnes Deep MCZ.  More detail can be found within the Relevant Documentation.

North East of Farnes Deep Timeline

Relevant Documentation

The documents referred to below and any other historical documents relating to the North East of Farnes Deep MCZ were produced during the selection and designation process and therefore may be out of date.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.


  • North East of Farnes Deep MCZ Amended Designation Order (2016) - Official description of the site, including additional features designated in Tranche Two.
  • North East of Farnes Deep Designation Order - Official description of the site designation under the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009. The Designation Order includes boundary coordinates, Conservation objectives and a list of the designated features.  
  • JNCC's formal conservation advice for this site is accessible through the Conservation Advice tab.




Last updated: October 2017


The information for this site summary was adapted from documents listed in the Evidence tab. Please refer to this section for further details and information sources.


Site overview

The North East of Farnes Deep MCZ includes an area of mixed sediments, predominantly consisting of subtidal sand interspersed with areas of subtidal coarse sediment and gravels.  Subtidal mud is also present; the mixture of sediment types within the MCZ creates a dynamic seabed environment that hosts a diverse ecosystem. The site depth ranges between 50m to 100m below chart datum; the deepest section of the site runs parallel to the western boundary and the shallowest section is in the south-east quarter. 


Formerly known as Rock Unique, much of the data used to originally identify the site came from maps based on habitat models, primarily UK SeaMap 2010.  However, a survey led by Cefas and JNCC in 2012 designed to verify the presence of the predicted habitats, recorded a somewhat different distribution of habitats present from the modelled maps.  This resulted in some changes to the features found in the site, notably the absence of low energy circalittoral rock resulted in the change of site name to North East of Farnes Deep MCZ.  Further inspection of the modelled data indicates that the rock could be buried by a layer of sediment, explaining its apparent absence from survey data. 


An updated habitat map has been prepared as a result of the 2012 survey, revealing that subtidal mixed sediments occupy almost half of the MCZ, and subtidal sand and subtidal coarse sediment each occupy approximately a quarter of the total site area, with a small area of subtidal mud present in the west of the site.  A total of 410 infaunal and 39 epifaunal species were recorded during the 2012 survey, including the long lived Ocean quahog (Arctica islandica) which is a species Features of Conservation Importance (FOCI) listed in the Ecological Network Guidance


During the first tranche of MCZs (2013) two features were designated in North East of Farnes Deep MCZ; A5.1 Subtidal coarse sediment and A5.2 Subtidal sand. Using information obtained within the 2012 survey, JNCC advised Defra on additional features which could be designated within this MCZ. In the second tranche of MCZs (2016) some of the additional features were designated. These included the broad-scale habitats Subtidal mud and Subtidal mixed sediments, as well as  the species FOCI Ocean quahog (Arctica islandica).


Data collected from within the MCZ boundary provides a comprehensive overview of the species present.  Several species of sponge were identified on the coarse sediment habitats, as well as hydroids, species of anemones, and different types of polychaete (worms). A range of crustacean species including barnacles (Verruca stroemia), amphipods (Atylidae and Paraphoxus sp), and squat lobsters (Galathea intermedia) were present in relatively large numbers across the extent of the MCZ.  Several species of fish were also observed in video samples taken from across the MCZ, including Dragonets (Callionymus lyra), Hagfish (Myxine glutinosa) and flatfish.


The North East of Farnes Deep MCZ is included in the MPA network for its contribution to the conservation of broad-scale habitats. Although not designated features of the site, geological/geomorphological features are also present in the form of depositional glacial features and topographic features of the North-East Bank seabed mound or pinnacle. 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: 492 km2.

Site depth range: The site depth ranges between 50m to 100m below chart datum; the deepest section of the site runs parallel to the western boundary and the shallowest section is in the south-east quarter.

Charting Progress 2 Biogeographic Region: Northern North Sea.


Site boundary description
The boundary of the North East of Farnes Deep MCZ is a simple rectangle, with the longest boundaries aligned broadly north-south.  The site boundary is the same as that proposed by the Net Gain Project, and includes broad-scale habitats that encompass coarse and sandy sediment ecosystems.




Last updated: October 2017


The full overview of the various data used to support site identification, along with information on confidence in feature presence and extent is available in the JNCC advice on offshore Marine Conservation Zones proposed for designation in 2013, as well as the JNCC pre-consultation and post-consultation scientific advice for Tranche Two offshore Marine Conservation Zones proposed for designation in 2016. JNCC will be adding relevant survey data for this MCZ 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.  Data from these surveys provide direct evidence confirming the presence of the protected features within the site.


Survey and data gathering

  • North East of Farnes Deep MCZ Verification Survey (2012) - JNCC collaborated on an MCZ verification survey with Cefas to North East of Farnes Deep MCZ funded through the MB0120 Defra data collection programme (reporting is underway and will be made available in due course).  Video, images and acoustic data were collected across the site.
  • British Geological Survey Particle Size Analysis (PSA) Data Points - Particle Size Analysis of historical data was collated and used to identify habitat type within the MCZ.


Data analysis reports

  • EUSeaMap (2016) - Provides supporting information on the presence and extent of Subtidal coarse sediment, Subtidal sand, Subtidal mud and Subtidal mixed sediments from a predictive seabed habitat map of European waters. Community analysis of North East of Farnes Deep MCZ data (2014) - JNCC contracted Seastar Survey Ltd to complete a community analysis of offshore MCZ grab and video data to establish biotopes. The following European Nature Information System (EUNIS) biotopes were assigned after mutlivariate analysis of the 2012 survey data. The Marine Habitat Classification for Britain and Ireland (version 15.03, JNCC 2015) has been provided in brackets.

EUNIS Level 4 biotopes

A5.15: Deep Circalittoral coarse sediment (SS.SCS.OCS)

A5.27: Deep circalittoral sand (SS.SSa.OSa)

A5.44: Circalittoral mixed sediments (SS.SMx.CMx)

A5.45: Deep circalittoral mixed sediments (SS.SMx.OMx)

EUNIS Level 5 biotopes

A5.251: Echinocyamus pusillus, Ophelia borealis and Abra prismatica in circalittoral fine sand (SS.SSa.CFiSa.EpusOberApri):

A5.272: Owenia fusiformis and Amphiura filiformis in deep circalittoral sand or muddy sand (SS.SSa.OSa.OfusAfil)

A5.451: Polychaete-rich deep Venus community in offshore mixed sediments (SS.SMx.OMx.PoVen)

A5.27x: Seapens and burrowing megafauna in fine deep circalittoral sand (SS.SSa.OSa.SpnMac) This is a new biotope identified within this study, it closely resembles SS.SMu.CFiMu.SpnMeg, however the associated sediment had a more significant sand contribution and was therefore assigned a new biotope for consideration.

  • Analysis of 2012 North East of Farnes Deep MCZ survey data (2012) - Cefas undertook analysis of the data collected on the 2012 survey of the North East of Farnes East MCZ.  The data, analysed as part of the MB0120 Defra contract, led to the creation of a revised habitat map that has been used to inform the presence of broad-scale habitats and habitat FOCI within the MCZ.  This report is not yet published.  A more detailed account of the biotopes found within the North East of Farnes Deep MZ is available in the published report.


Additional relevant literature

References for further supporting scientific literature consulted during the identification of this site can be found in the annexes of our advice. 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 data or relevant scientific papers for this site not listed in the relevant documentation, including the North East of Farnes Deep Site Summary Document, or the annexes of the MCZ advice documents, 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 an MCZ 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 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.






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


Activities and Management


Last updated: October 2017


Management status: Progressing towards being well managed


Progress is ongoing with the recommendation of fisheries management proposals 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 its conservation objectives.


This site forms part of the UKs contribution to the OSPAR commission’s network of MPA's 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 North East of Farnes Deep MCZ 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, ‘licensable’ activities and military activities.



  • There is evidence of mobile demersal, static and pelagic effort within the North East of Farnes Deep MCZ. 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).
  • JNCC have produced a Fisheries Options Paper for North East of Farnes Deep MCZ to support the MMO in developing management proposals.
  • The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) are the lead authority regarding the implementation of, and compliance with, any measures to managing fishing activity. Further information on progress is available via the MMO website.


Licensable activities

  • The MPA overlaps with 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 in the future within this MPA are managed in accordance with the clauses set out under Section 127 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, please see The Marine Management Organisations’ guidance on marine conservation zones and marine licensing.
  • 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


Military Activity

  • Low level military activity may take place within the MCZ. The MoD have incorporated all designated MPAs into their Environmental Protection Guidelines (Maritime) and wider Marine Environmental and Sustainability Assessment Tool. These guidelines are used to manage MOD activity to minimise the associated risks to the environment.


Site condition monitoring

A site condition monitoring survey took place in 2016 to form the first point in a monitoring time series which will be used to determine the rate and direction of change over time in the condition of the protected features of the site. Further information will be made available under the monitoring tab in due course.


Progression 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. However, the vulnerability assessment conducted for this site suggests it may be achieving or moving towards its conservation objectives based on limited exposure to activities associated with pressures to which the protected features of the site are considered to be sensitive. Further information will be provided under 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. 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: 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.


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.



Image Gallery