North-east Faroe-Shetland Channel NCMPA

Status: Designated


Site overview

This site is located to the far north-east of Scotland, covering the north-eastern section of the Faroe-Shetland Channel in Scottish waters. Here, warmer waters mix with cooler ones creating a unique environment that provides food and nutrients for a whole host of sea creatures, including around 50 different species of sea sponge. The sponges also provide shelter for a range of smaller creatures including pencil urchins and brittlestars. Below 800m, the muddy seabed is home to those species that can put up with the cooler Arctic-influenced waters, such as deep-sea worms. The channel is thought to be a corridor for migrating mammals, including fin whales and sperm whales. The Pilot Whale Diapirs are found here; these are a group of deep-water mounds which measure 2 to 3 km across and rise to around 70m. They are the only known example found in UK waters that breach the seabed surface. 

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

23,749.43 km2 (9,169.70 mi.2)


717.74 km (445.98 mi.)

  • Offshore deep sea muds

    One of the most widespread and common habitats in the Scottish offshore environment which supports a variety of animals including prawns, shellfish, starfish and worms.

  • 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.

  • A wide range of features representative of the West Shetland Margin Palaeo-depositional, Miller Slide and Pilot Whale Diapirs Key Geodiversity Areas

Did you know?…

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

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