Nature Conservation Marine Protected Area
United Kingdom: Scotland
The Hatton-Rockall Basin NCMPA is located in the far west of Scotland‟s offshore waters. Rockall Bank lies to the east, Hatton Bank to the west, and George Bligh Bank to the north. At about 1.1km depth, this muddy basin hosts a range of animals adapted to living in the deep-sea. The seabed in this area is criss-crossed with unique examples of polygonal faults, an intriguing geological feature considered to be of scientific importance. The structure of the faults resembles the cracks found on a sun scorched desert, creating a unique relief on the seabed.
Different types of animals can be found living in, and on, the muddy seabed within the Hatton Rockall Basin. A group of animals that often have five-starred symmetry, called echinoderms, are some of the most common animals found here, including sea cucumbers, starfish and sea urchins. The NCMPA also includes aggregations of deep-sea sponges, including the aptly named birds-nest sponge. Associated with the harder edges of the polygonal faults, the sponge aggregations are biodiversity hotspots, supporting many other species. The spine-like „spicule‟ remnants left behind by dead sponges cover the seabed, preventing burrowing animals from establishing, which enables seabed surface animals thrive, including mats of brittlestars that wave their arms in the passing currents in pursuit of food.
In 2014, this area was designated as an MPA as part of the "Planning Scotland's Seas" initiative.
In 2009, the Northeast Atlantic Fisheries Management Council closed 330,000 km² in the Hatton and Rockall Banks area off Scotland to bottom-contact fishing gear and static deepwater (below 200 m) fishing gear. In addition, the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic (OSPAR) announced in 2010 a network of marine protected areas to be created in the same region.