Western Fladen MPA

Map of Western Fladen MPA (Scottish marine protected area)

This site was proposed as part of the MPA network consultation in 2013 but was not taken forward.

History of this MPA

The Western Fladen possible MPA lies within the Fladen Grounds, a large area of mud in the northern North Sea named after the German word “fladen” meaning “flat cake”. This possible MPA includes a particular type of mud habitat that is characterised by feather-like soft corals called sea pens, and the burrows made by crustaceans such as mud shrimp and the Norway lobster (also known as the Dublin Bay prawn or langoustine). The possible MPA also includes an unusual tunnel valley in the seabed, known as the ‘Fladen Deeps’ or the ‘Holes’. It is thought these valleys were created by erosion of melt water under an ice sheet in former ice ages. [1]

Save Scottish Seas campaign members assessed the Scottish Government’s MPA proposal for this site as part of its consultation response.

Western Fladen MPA Site Summary Document

Download the Western Fladen MPA Site Summary Document

Read our response to the MPA network consultation here:

LINK supports the designation of the Western Fladen MPA site as a Demonstration and Research MPA, but not as not as a Nature Conservation MPA as proposed. This would promote scientific understanding of the burrowed mud habitat. This MPA is being presented as one part of a potential science-based alternative to the designation of the Central Fladen possible Nature Conservation MPA. LINK members support the Central Fladen (core) possible nature conservation MPA proposal for the reasons outlined below:

We support conservation objectives for the protected features within the Central Fladen possible MPA to ‘conserve’ for all features. Since the tall sea pen population is likely a remnant population, protected by North Sea oil and gas infrastructure where there is limited operation of towed/active gear, we would suggest that the conservation objective for tall sea pens to be set to ‘recover’. We further support and encourage designation of large zones prohibiting all forms of disturbance by mobile and static gear to ensure sizable proportions of sensitive communities are fully protected from disturbance and have opportunity for future enhancement. This possible MPA, if highly protected, offers opportunity to benchmark against and compare gear activity and catch effort in the adjacent option areas (Western Fladen and South-East Fladen) which we recommend be designated as Demonstration and Research MPAs. We further support and encourage designation prohibiting all forms of possible future disturbance by mining and exploration, and new oil and gas facilities, particularly with respect to Scotland’s vision for a full shift to sustainable energy and reduction in carbon footprint. Limiting these activities will to ensure the Cental Fladen and Central Fladen (core) MPA search features are fully protected from disturbance, and have opportunity for future enhancement. For any proposed licensed activities, they must be managed through a stringent consenting process, as directed by the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 and Marine (Scotland) Act 2010. However, we emphasise that the expansion of licence activities in possible MPAs should be avoided if alternative sites can be located.

The socioeconomic impact data presented in the BRIA indicates that cost of managing damaging commercial fisheries and oil & gas sector activities is lower in the Cental Fladen – Central Fladen (core) option (£5 – £12 million – Present value of total cost over 20-year period) compared to the Central Fladen (core) – Western Fladen option (£8 – £17 million) with a slightly higher cost estimated when compared to the Central Fladen (core) – Southeast Fladen option (£3 – £8 million). The majority of the differences due to the estimated increased oil and gas industry costs. We consider the socioeconomic impact cost of designation for the Central Fladen – Central Fladen (core) to be reasonable in comparison to the options presented, and is likely to provide a beneficial conservation planning design. It is also noted that the provided map of trawling effort (Map 4, Page 12) indicates appreciably lower fishing activity in the Cental Fladen (core). We propose that displacement costs by restricting damaging activities will be outweighed by the medium to long term benefit of protecting the ecological integrity of the possible MPA so it can continue to provide ecosystem services to Scotland’s offshore waters.

It is possible that the densely populated tall seapen community of the Central Fladen (core) possible MPA may be a positive outcome of low intensity bottom trawling activity. The lower levels of activity may in turn be a result of restricted fishing activity within 500 m of the oil and gas pipeline, and fishing vessel avoidance to the vicinity of the pipeline more broadly. The Cental Fladen (core) and Central Fladen possible MPA is the preferred option and is fully supported for MPA designation.

Check out the official documents relating to the possible Western Fladen MPA on the Joint Nature Conservation Committee website.

[1] Western Fladen MPA Site Summary Document, JNCC

Contact the Save Scottish Seas team

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