South Arran NCMPA

Status: Designated


Site overview

This area was selected for protection because of its diversity of animals and plants including maerl beds, kelp, seaweed and possibly the largest seagrass bed in the Clyde. The site covers over 250 km2 and encompasses the current Lamlash Bay No Take Zone, an area where the removal of marine life is forbidden. This area is important for herring which use the area as a spawning ground, and is home to burrowing sea cucumbers and ocean quahogs - clam-like animals which can live for up to 400 years. Learn all about Lamlash Bay No Take Zone on the Community Of Arran Seabed Trust (COAST) website.

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

279.96 km2 (108.09 mi.2)


125.50 km (77.98 mi.)

  • Ocean quahog (Arctica islandica)

    The ocean quahog is a two-shelled animal that looks like a very large cockle and lives buried in the seabed. It can grow up to 13cm across and can be very long lived, with one individual reported to have reached over 500 years old.

  • Burrowed mud

    Burrowed mud is a surprisingly important marine habitat which supports a rich community of animals.   There are the burrow-making animals that live within the mud itself, including fish, worms, brittlestars, crabs and shrimps.  Secondly, there are those a

  • Seagrass beds

    Seagrasses (also known, for their long thin leaves, as eel grass) are grass-like flowering plants with dark green, long, narrow, ribbon-shaped leaves. They are one of the very few groups of flowering plants that live in the sea.

  • 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

  • Maerl or coarse shell gravel with burrowing sea cucumbers

    Areas where the gravel sea cucumber (Neopentadactyla mixta) can be found in high densities within the gravel, maerl (several species of red seaweed with hard, chalky skeletons) and coarse sand along with lots of other species. 

  • 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.

Seasearch Logo

Seasearch conducted observer training back in 2003 with divers from the Community of Arran Seabed Trust (COAST). These divers carried out dives throughout Lamlash Bay, Isle of Arran, to support the successful proposal for a designated as a protected area. These divers found a huge variety of marine life including abundant feather stars, burrowing anemones, juvenile cod, maerl beds, occasional king and queen scallops, seapens, common starfish, sea urchins, spiny starfish and cushion starfish. In the South Bank area of the site, in Whiting Bay it was observed that the seabed had been dredged two days previously leaving broken scallop shells and starfish remnants. In other area of the site old nets and trawl wires were seen abandoned.

Learn more about Seasearch

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

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