Fetlar to Haroldswick NCMPA

Status: Designated


Site overview

This area is located where the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean meet and is home to a really diverse array of animals and plants, including maerl and mussel beds, and many types of kelp and seaweed. Over 2,000 breeding pairs of black guillemots feed here. The site partially overlaps the seaward area of the Fetlar Special Protection Area, another type of Marine Protected Area. This site is designated for various breeding birds including Arctic tern, Arctic skua and northern fulmar.

The maerl beds and horse mussel beds here are highly sensitive to certain types of fishing which rake up the seabed. Management measures need to be in place here which not only allow the area to recover, but also to reverse some of these historic impacts.

MPA Type

Nature Conservation Marine Protected Area

Nature Conservation Marine Protected Areas (NCMPAs) are designated under UK legislation (Marine Scotland Act 2010) and have been established around Scotland to contribute to the UK MPA network by protecting a range of important habitats, species and features of the seabed.

Designation date

24 July 2014

Surface Area

215.64 km2 (83.26 mi.2)


311.20 km (193.37 mi.)

  • Black guillemot (Cepphus grylle)

    In summer an unmistakable black and white bird with bright red feet. In the winter it dulls to more subtle shades of grey and white. Black guillemots are usually found in ones and twos, scattered around rocky islets.

  • Circalittoral sand and coarse sediment communities

    Sand and coarse sediment communitie, usually quite close to the shore where a little light and wave movement still reaches the seabed. These areas are usually dominated by animals rather than plants.

  • Maerl beds

    Maerl beds include several species of red seaweed, with hard, chalky skeletons. Maerl is rock hard and grows, unattached to the seabed, in little nodules or branched shapes on the seabed. Each bit is quite small, but they can accumulate in large areas tha

  • Shallow tide-swept coarse sands with burrowing bivalves

    Coarse gravelly sand on exposed coasts extending down to around 20m supports an abundance of burrowing shellfish. This habitat is very rare and Scottish records are probably of national importance at the UK scale.

  • Kelp and seaweed communities on sublittoral sediment

    Kelp and seaweed communities where the parts closest to shore are only exposed to the air by the very lowest tides.

  • Horse mussel beds (Modiolus modiolus)

    Horse mussels are like the little mussels so common around our seashore only they are much larger – up to 20cm in length. They are usually found in small clumps or vast beds, partially buried in the seabed. These groups create a great habitat for lots of

  • Marine geomorphology of the Scottish shelf seabed

    The features of the seabed formed by the action of tides and currents.

Did you know?…

To the shelf limits, Scotland has 61% of UK waters, of which 23% are now in existing or new ‘marine protected areas’

Over 500,000 records of undersea species and habitats have been collected by volunteer Seasearch divers