Lying to the north of Scotland, the West Shetland Shelf MPA overlaps with the Windsock Fisheries Area which is managed for the recovery of cod.
The MPA has been chosen for the wide variety of sand and gravel habitats present in the area, providing an important example of the northern extent of their range on the continental shelf in Scotland’s seas. From coarse gravels to fine-grained sands, the different habitats provide conditions suitable for a diverse range of animals to thrive in and on the seabed. Although a relatively common habitat in Scotland's seas, the range of different types of sand and gravel habitats present within the MPA supports a particularly rich diversity of wildlife. On the surface, anemones and several types of crab can be found living between small rocks, whilst urchins and starfish roam the surface looking for their next meal. Sea snails, bivalves (shellfish with a pair of shells) and sand mason worms (so-named for the tube they build by cementing together grains of sand and shell) are adapted to living buried in the sand to avoid passing predators.
The area within the MPA is also important for several species of fish including cod, plaice, bass, skate and rays. Certain types of fishing are already managed in the overlapping Windsock Fisheries Area to help cod populations recover.
The current conservation objective is to conserve the protected features of this MPA.
More detail on the designation is available from the JNCC website.
The final Business and Regulatory Impact Assessment for this MPA is available to view.