Sea urchins (Credit Polly Whyte / earthinfocus)
Sea pens are in decline in this area! Urgent protection is needed to help them thrive once more.
Home to a diverse range of creatures that form a vital part of the Irish Sea food web.
West of Walney is located just off the coast of Walney Island, Cumbria, and covers two different habitat types: mud to the north and sand to the south.
Mud and sand are both brilliant habitats for wildlife and full of life. High densities of burrowing brittlestars colonise the surface of the sandy areas, while urchins, worms and molluscs enjoy the mud alongside the commercially important Dublin Bay prawn (also known as the pub grub favourite, scampi). Strange-looking spoon worms can also be found here. These bizarre creatures extend their long spoon-shaped, green tongues out of their burrows in the mud to feed. Delicate sea pens also live on the West of Walney mud; their numbers are in decline and protection will help them to thrive once more. Who would have thought muddy habitats could be so full of life!
West of Walney is partially co-located with four wind farms, collectively these constitute one of the world’s largest offshore windfarm areas. Co-location could help the habitats to recover in this area by providing a physical barrier, or closed area, to damaging fishing activities.
Located just off the Cumbrian coast, the main habitats here are mud to the north and sand to the south – both of which are brilliant for wildlife. We may never be lucky enough see the rich underwater landscape of West of Walney, but everyone should be able to appreciate seeing the seals and seabirds, which could benefit from the protection of this area.
Special features of West of Walney:
- Sandy sediments support dense aggregations of burrowing brittlestars and provide essential nursery grounds for many important fish species such as flatfish, sea bass and sand eels
- Mud supports rich communities of urchins, worms, molluscs, delicate sea pens and the commercially important Dublin Bay prawn
- This MCZ is partially co-located with wind farm developments in the area
Benefits of protection:
- Sand eels are an important food resource for seabirds like puffins, razorbills and guillemots
- Sea pen numbers are in decline – protection will help them to thrive
- Wind turbines exclude some of the most damaging fishing methods
- Protection of species and habitats within a co-location zone could improve surrounding fish stocks
- Grey seals have been tracked travelling to offshore wind turbines to forage – protection could boost the population on South Walney
This recommended Marine Conservation Zone is under consideration for the second tranche of MCZs.
This site has been identified as at risk by Natural England and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee. All of the features put forward by the regional projects are considered moderately to highly vulnerable to pressures exerted by bottom trawling within the site.
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Other nearby MCZs
West of Walney recommended MCZ is located in the map below.
Contains UKHO Law of the Sea data. Crown copyright and database right and contains Ordnance Survey Data Crown copyright and database 2012