Noss Head NCMPA

Status: Designated


Site overview

This site is located off the coast at Wick in the north of Scotland and supports the largest known horse mussel bed in Scottish waters. Horse mussels are long-lived, many survive for more than 25 years and some may live for more than 50 years. Young mussels are a favourite meal for crabs and starfish. They also provide a habitat for many other types of marine invertebrates and plants. These are also important nursery areas for juvenile fish and shellfish.

At riskThe use of heavy bottom towed gear must be limited throughout this site as it can really damage the horse mussel beds. It is really important that these habitats are properly protected.

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

7.54 km2 (2.91 mi.2)


14.55 km (9.04 mi.)

  • 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

Did you know?…

An area over 9 times the size of Wales is now in marine protected areas in the UK, but less than 1% is considered by MCS scientists to be well managed

Over half a million people have voiced their support for ‘marine protected area’ designation in the UK through our campaigns

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