Small Isles

Site overview: This site is located around the islands of Canna and Rum off the west coast of Scotland, and is home to the only known aggregation of fan mussels in UK waters. The fan mussel is one of the most threatened molluscs in the UK and grows to between 30 - 48 cm in length. It was believed that only occasional individuals survived around the coast of Scotland, until the discovery in 2009 of a large aggregation in the deep, tide-swept waters between Rum and Canna. The northern feather star is also found here, along with sea fans, dead man’s fingers, white cluster anemones and sponges. Small Isles MPA overlaps the Rum, and Canna and Sanday Special Protection Area (SPAs), designated in part to protect breeding seabirds. The sea here is used by a large breeding colony of black guillemots (more than 1,200 individuals).
At risk: Management of this site has been delayed because of opposing concerns. This has meant that creatures such as fan mussel and northern feather star aggregations have possibly been damaged further. The fan mussel aggregation here is really rare, and the fan mussel status throughout Scottish seas is plainly critical. So this population needs to be given the chance to recover.

Designation Status
Last Updated
6 June 2017
MPA Type
Nature Conservation Marine Protected Area
MPA Purpose
This complements the MPA power introduced through the Marine and Coastal Access Act for offshore waters around Scotland. The Act also allows the Scottish Ministers to designate MPAs for demonstration and research and for historic/cultural conservation.


57° 1' 27" North,
6° 30' 24" West

Surface Area

803.52 km2
(310.24 mi.2 )

Iconic features protected by this site