North-west Orkney NCMPA

Status: Designated


Site overview

This site is located to the north and west of Orkney. It is a really important area for sandeels, which in turn are an important food source for other animals, including many types of larger fish and seabirds, such as puffins.

At risk It is known that, sadly, seabird breeding success has been very poor in this area. It is believed that this is because there has been a lack of sandeels here. In the past 10 years, kittiwake productivity has only once been above 50%. Last year, of 325 surveyed kittiwake nests, only a single chick was fledged. This would not be the case if there were lots of sandeels available as food. It is really important that the sandeels are allowed to breed freely here in order to provide a source of food for seabirds. This can only happen if the site is well managed. 

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

4,370.14 km2 (1,687.32 mi.2)


321.93 km (200.04 mi.)

  • Sandeels (Ammodytes spp.)

    Sandeels are small eel-like fish which swim in large shoals. They are an extremely important part of food webs in the North Atlantic. They also support the largest fishery in the North Sea, with recent annual landings in the last decade of around a millio

  • Sand banks, sand wave fields and sediment wave fields representative of the Fair Isle Strait Marine Process Bedforms Key Geodiversity Area.

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

Did you know?…

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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 on undersea habitats and species have been collected by volunteer Seasearch divers providing significant evidence for inshore ‘marine protected areas’

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