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    Special Areas of Conservation 

    UK SACsUK Special Areas of Conservation with marine components

    Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) are special sites designated under the EC Habitats Directive for habitats and species listed in Annex I and II of the Directive, which came into force in May 1992. The qualifying marine habitats and species for SACs with marine components are listed on the JNCC website. Marine SACs are also known as European Marine Sites (EMS) and form part of the European network of Natura 2000 sites.  

    Around 7.6% of the UK’s marine area has SAC designation, through 99 sites, 83 of which are in inshore waters, 16 in offshore waters and four in both inshore and offshore waters1. To view the sites in more detail see the JNCC interactive map

    Criteria for marine SAC selection is contained within the Habitats Directive and EC Guidance on implementation of the Natura 2000 network in the marine environment. Candidate SAC sites are submitted to the EU for approval before being designated as a Site of Community Importance (SCI). The UK Government then has six years to designate the site as an SAC. 

    Explanation of site status: ·

    • Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) are sites that have been adopted by the European Commission and formally designated by the government of each country in whose territory the site lies. 
    • Sites of Community Importance (SCIs) are sites that have been adopted by the European Commission but not yet formally designated by the government of each country. 
    • Candidate SACs (cSACs) are sites that have been submitted to the European Commission, but not yet formally adopted. 
    • Possible SACs (pSACs) are sites that have been formally advised to UK Government, but not yet submitted to the European Commission.   
    • Draft SACs (dSACs) are areas that have been formally advised to UK government as suitable for selection as SACs, but have not been formally approved by government as sites for public consultation.   

    UK pSACsHarbour Porpoise pSACs (source)

    The SAC network for marine habitats is now thought to be substantially complete, while sites for offshore species are still under consideration. The UK received a Letter of Formal Notice (dated 20 June 2013) from the European Commission, which outlined their concern about a lack of Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) for harbour porpoise in the UK under the EU Habitats Directive. In 2016 consultations were held for Harbour Porpoise SACs in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. For England, Wales and Northern Ireland, a consultation report was submitted to Governments by the JNCC and relevant Country Nature Conservation Bodies on 28th September 2016. The five sites shown in the figure above have been approved by UK Government and were submitted to the European Commission for approval in January 2017. Hence, they are now classified as cSACs. 

    SAC Management

    Entirely intertidal SAC sites can be managed under SSSI/ASSI mechanism, as most EMS (whole, or part, of a SAC or SPA) are also designated as SSSIs/ASSIs. The relevant conservation agency provide management views and a list of operations that require consent. Most subtidal EMS are managed under the Habitats Regulations or Offshore Habitats Regulations. Management schemes are optional, but the relevant nature conservation body is required to communicate the conservation objectives for the site, and must also advise of operations which may cause deterioration or disturbance of the feature for which the site has been designated. Not all marine SACs have special management schemes - they are only set up where there is a need for them, which generally means where there are a lot of different users of a site2. Draft advice on activities in the Harbour Porpoise pSACs (available here), suggests adherence to wildlife codes of conduct for recreational boaters as the only form of management. For further information on site-specific management for SACs, look at the MMO strategic management table

    For more information on SAC management, see the JNCC and SNH websites. 



    England

    England SACsEnglish Special Areas of Conservation with marine components

    There are 32 SACs with marine components in English inshore waters, including four cross-border sites, and two that straddle the offshore regions. England has a further five entirely offshores sites. 

    In 2016 consultations were held for Harbour Porpoise SACs in England, including the Bristol Channel pSAC with an area of 5,851 km2, and Southern North Sea pSAC with an area of 36,958 km2. A consultation report was submitted to Governments by the JNCC and relevant Country Nature Conservation Bodies on 28th September 2016. Draft advice on activities in the Bristol Channel pSAC and Southern North Sea pSAC suggested adherence to wildlife codes of conduct for recreational boaters. 

    In January 2017 both sites became candidate SACs (cSACs) as they have been approved by the UK Government and submitted to the European Commission for approval. 



    Wales

    Wales SACsWelsh Special Areas of Conservation with marine components

    There are 11 SACs with marine components in Welsh inshore waters, including two cross-border sites, and one entirely offshore site. 

    In 2016 consultations were held for Harbour Porpoise SACs in Wales (see here, here and here), including the Bristol Channel Approaches / Dynesfeydd Môr Hafren pSAC with an area of 5,851km2 (a cross-border site with England), West Wales Marine / Gorllewin Cymru Forolwith pSAC an area of 7,377km2, and North Anglesey Marine / Gogledd Môn Forol pSAC with an area of 3,235km2. A consultation report was submitted to Governments by the JNCC and relevant Country Nature Conservation Bodies on 28th September 2016. Draft advice on activities in the North Anglesey Marine pSAC, West Wales Marine pSAC, and Bristol Channel Approaches pSAC, suggested adherence to wildlife codes of conduct for recreational boaters. 

    In January 2017 these sites became candidate SACs (cSACs) as they have been approved by the UK Government and submitted to the European Commission for approval. 



    Scotland

    Scotland SACsScottish Special Areas of Conservation with marine components

    The EU Habitats Directive has been transposed into Scottish law through the Habitats Regulations. There are 48 marine Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) in Scotland to protect species and habitats such as bottlenose dolphin, coral reefs and seals. There are 39 SACs with marine components in Scottish inshore waters, including two cross-border sites, and two that straddle the offshore regions. There are a further nine entirely offshore sites. 

    The Inner Hebrides and Minches SAC for harbour porpoise was designated on 22 September 2016, following the consultation that ended in May 2016. Covering over 13,800km2, it is the largest protected area in Europe for harbour porpoise, and protects over 5,000 individuals3



    Northern Ireland

    Northern Ireland SACsNorthern Irish Special Areas of Conservation with marine components

    In Northern Ireland designation of SACs with Marine Components is carried out jointly by DAERA Marine and Fisheries Division, and NIEA Natural Environment Division.  

    There are six SACs with marine components in Northern Irish inshore waters, and one offshore site. Sites include Murlough SAC, North Antrim Coast SAC, Rathlin Island SAC, Red Bay SCI, Skerries and Causeway SCI, Strangford Lough SAC, and The Maidens SCI, with further information available on the DAERA website. In intertidal areas and estuaries, marine SACs are often underpinned as ASSIs

    The 2016 consultations on harbour porpoise cSACs, led by JNCC, included the North Channel pSAC (see here and here), with an area of 1,604 km2. The consultation report was submitted to Government on 28th September 2016. Draft advice on activities in the North Channel pSAC suggested adherence to wildlife codes of conduct for recreational boaters. In January 2017 this site became a candidate SAC (cSAC) as it has been approved by the UK Government and submitted to the European Commission for approval. 



    [1] http://jncc.defra.gov.uk/page-1445 

    [2] http://www.snh.gov.uk/protecting-scotlands-nature/protected-areas/international-designations/sac/marine-sac-management/ 

    [3] http://www.snh.gov.uk/protecting-scotlands-nature/protected-areas/2016-harbour-porpoise-consultation/  

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