Enhanced hydrographic mixing, upwelling and down-welling around the Rockall bank may give rise to highly localised and specialised biological communities such as sponge aggregations, Lophelia reefs and coral gardens. Lophelia pertusa occurs on Rockall Bank principally at depths between 200-400 m, but also in certain areas deeper than 500 m on the slopes of the bank. Gorgonians and black corals are found on the bank and down the slopes. Sea-pens are recorded from the bank and especially the sedimentary slope areas. Sponges have been recorded across the bank, most notably from the western slope. There is evidence of an active cold-seep ecosystem in the area on the western margin of Rockall Bank at a depth of 1200 m. It is therefore a highly diverse and unique ecosystem which is why it has been proposed to become an ‘Ecologically and Biologically Significant Area' (EBSA) under the Convention on Biological Diversity.
The Rockall Bank supports large and productive stocks of fish. Some of the fish stocks are thought to be endemic to the bank, e.g. haddock, while others, e.g. saithe, are thought to migrate to the bank from elsewhere. There are profitable bottom trawl fisheries targeting mainly squid, haddock and monkfish. To a lesser extent there are deep-water trawl and long-line fisheries. Pelagic fisheries for blue whiting operate over the western slope of the bank.
Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) data show that fishing activity potentially affects much of the Rockall Bank area and current fisheries control measures on Rockall Bank have focused mainly on the protection of corals and there are now extensive closed areas at Rockall enforced by North-East Atlantic Fisheries Commission. There are further two areas that are designated as special areas of conservation under the EU Habitats Directive.
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