Faroe-Shetland Sponge Belt NCMPA

Status: Designated


Site overview

The Faroe-Shetland Channel is a huge rift basin that separates the Scottish and the Faroese continental shelves to the north of Scotland. Warmer North Atlantic water flows over sub-zero deep water from the Norwegian Sea creating a unique environment which supports a wide diversity of sea life. This includes fields of slow-growing deep-sea sponges known Cheese-Bottoms to local fishermen, owing to their appearance! 

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

5,282.18 km2 (2,039.46 mi.2)


427.81 km (265.83 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.

  • Continental slope

    A relatively steeply sloping surface between the outer edge of the continental shelf, the area of seabed around the UK which is shallower than the open ocean, and the deep ocean floor.

  • Deep-sea sponge aggregations

    Deep sea areas dominated mainly by two types of sponge - glass sponge and giant sponge.

  • Offshore subtidal sands and gravels

    Offshore areas of sand and gravel that are offshore and always covered by water. These habitats can support a rich variety of life and support internationally important commercial fisheries, such as those for scallops and flatfish.

  • Continental slope channels, iceberg plough marks, prograding wedges and slide deposits representative of the West Shetland Margin paleo-depositional system Key Geodiversity Area

    Marks and scars on the slope between the outer edge of the continental shelf, the area of seabed around the UK which is shallower than the open ocean, and the deep ocean floor that give an indication of the processes created them over millenia.

  • Sand wave fields and sediment wave fields representative of the West Shetland Margin contourite deposits Key Geodiversity Area

    Areas where ocean currents have created wave like formations in the sand and sediment on the seabed.

Did you know?…

Over 170 parliamentarians from across the political spectrum signed up to our Marine Charter calling for a network of ‘marine protected areas’ in UK Seas

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