This case study targets the Faroe Shetland Channel. It will focus on the dynamics, connectedness, sensitivity, and spatial management of resources provided by the deep-sea sponge ecosystems. The physical barrier of the Wyville Thomson Ridge is a large obstacle for southward flowing cool Nordic waters, leading to significantly different benthic communities downstream of deep water flow. Large protists, sponges, corals, and surface-dwelling acorn worms are just some of the fauna forming distinctive habitats that are known to support diverse communities of associated species in the region. Stalked sponges occupy deep-water sandy sediments, brittlestar beds are found on gravel, sponges and soft corals colonise mixed gravel-cobble-boulder bottoms, and well-developed communities inhabit coarse sediments built up into the furrows and ridges created by grounded icebergs. A diverse range of benthic ecosystems occurs in the channel, including cold-water coral reefs, deep-sea sponge aggregations and offshore deep-sea muds. Diverse epifaunal assemblages of sponges, corals, crinoids and dense beds of ophiuroids also occur.

The patchy but dense occurrence of sponges in the Faroe-Shetland Channel is striking. This distinct sponge “belt” occurs between depths of 400–600 m that seems to extend from the junction with the Faroe Bank Channel to the very northeastern reaches of the West Shetland Channel. Many records of these assemblages exist. Primary Blue Growth sectors in the area include oil and gas, fisheries, and telecommunication cables. The potential for Blue Biotechnology from the sponge grounds could also support Blue Growth for the European blue economy.

Blue Growth Sectors: Fisheries, Biotechnology, Oil and Gas