The East of Gannet and Montrose Fields MPA lies within a shallow sediment plain to the south-east of Scotland. The sandy seabed in the region provides an ideal home for the ocean quahog, a type of large clam that normally lives buried in the sand. Ocean quahog filter food from passing currents, and use their shovel-like ‘foot’ to bury into the sediment. 
Scottish Government proposed management measures for this site late last year. Save Scottish Seas campaign members have assessed the Scottish Government’s MPA proposal for this site as part of its consultation response.
Read our response to the proposed management measures here:
East of Gannet and Montrose Fields NC MPA
We support the proposed management for the site to remove dredge, beam and demersal trawls
from the mapped ocean quahog aggregations. However, given the suitable habitat for ocean quahog
aggregations extends through the majority of the site, it is possible that ocean quahog aggregations
could extend beyond the confirmed sightings.
Distribution of this species is likely to be significantly under-recorded as it is often missed by grab
sampling and is difficult to identify form drop down video footage17
. Additionally, SNH
recommended that given the uncertainty in estimating the area required to support a minimum
population, the low expected recovery rate and their vulnerability to physical disturbance (e.g.
trawling) a precautionary approach to protection is required17
The GEMS database also indicates quahog aggregations outwith the MPA boundary in areas where
the fishing intensity is low. Suitable habitat is present in the southwest area of the MPA (where
fishing is currently at high intensity. Current management proposals are unlikely to contribute to
helping to increase the population for this species, considered to be Threatened and/or Declining in
OSPAR Region II18, by only protecting residual populations in areas of low impact. We would
therefore call for adequate site survey monitoring and vessel monitoring of bycatch incidences for
ocean quahog to ensure the management proposals are proportionate.
Read our response to the 2013 site consultation here:
LINK supports the designation of the East of Gannet and Montrose Fields possible Nature Conservation MPA for the protection of ocean quahog aggregations (including sands and gravels as their supporting habitat) and offshore deep-sea muds. The boundary of the possible MPA is fully supported. The southern part of the possible MPA includes one of very few examples of deep-sea mud on the continental shelf in the North Sea. We note that offshore sands and gravels have been included as a proxy for ocean quahog (but not a selection feature in their own right).
We accept the conservation objective of ‘conserve – feature condition uncertain’. However, we note that selection guideline 2d was not considered to be met for the protected biodiversity features in this site as sensitivity analyses concluded that there is a risk that features have been modified by human activity.
Management options for protected features of uncertain condition must be evidence-based, account for the known vulnerability of the protected features to human activities and make appropriate use of the precautionary principle.
We support the application of large zones prohibiting all forms of disturbance by bottom contact fishing
gear to ensure sizable proportions of the features and supporting habitat are fully protected from disturbance and have opportunity for future enhancement. This position is heightened by the ‘many concerns’ status assessment of shelf subtidal sediments in the Forties area of the North Sea, in which this possible MPA sits, highlighted by Scotland’s Marine Atlas.
Even the upper management scenario from the Sustainability Appraisal estimates loss in value of fishery landings as £0.22million. That the value of fish landed does not appear to be substantial is consistent with much of the possible MPA being considered Least Damaged/More Natural. Given the context of ‘many concerns’ across the Forties region, it would therefore make sense to enhance the naturalness of the seabed in this already less used part of the north sea by prohibiting towed/active fishing gear from the deep sea-mud and known ocean quahog aggregations at least and provide buffer zones around them.
Check out the official documents relating to the possible East of Gannet and Montrose Fields MPA on the Joint Nature Conservation Committee website.
 East of Gannet and Montrose Fields MPA site summary, JNCC