Unlike most cold-water coral reefs, the Mingulay Reef Complex is a rare example of an inshore ecosystem at100-200 m of water depth, located 14 km east of the island of Mingulay in the Sea of the Hebrides, western Scotland. Distinctive coral mounds up to 5 m high are formed by the stony coral Lophelia pertusa, mounds which have been growing periodically over the last 7,000 years. The accessibility and density of environmental data from Mingulay have made it an ideal site for studies examining the vulnerability of cold-water corals to ocean warming and acidification since 2003. Samples of Lophelia pertusa from Mingulay have been used in experimental studies that demonstrated the hidden impacts of acidification on coral biomineralisation, growth and skeletal strength.

The reefs are also used by sharks for egg-laying and resting sites, with the deep-water shark Galeus melastomus coming in year after year to the same area to lay eggs on live corals. Today, the reef complex is part of the East Mingulay Marine Protected Area (MPA), a Special Area of Conservation designated under the EC’s Birds and Habitats Directive. Recent stakeholder consultation had led to the banning of mobile bottom fishing gear in the MPA, with static creel pots allowed to fish in between the reefs.

Blue Growth opportunities in the area could include potential growth for the creel fishing industry, as well as ecotourism including sea angling, sailing, and whale watching, and marine renewables.

Blue Growth Sectors: Fisheries, Tourism

Mingulay 3 ROV c JMR Changing Oceans

ROV monitoring off Mingulay © Changing Oceans Cruise 2012