UK SSSIs with a marine component
Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) are designated and
legally protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (England and Wales) and the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004 improved provisions for the protection and management
of SSSIs in Britain. Sites in Northern Ireland, designated under The
Environment (Northern Ireland) Order 2002,
are known as Areas of Special Scientific Interest (ASSIs).
SSSIs are designated as
areas "of special interest by reason of any of its flora, fauna, or geological
or physiographical features"1. SSSIs are primarily land-based, but some sites
extend below the low water mark. It is an offence for any person to
intentionally or recklessly damage the protected natural features of an SSSI.
Notice is made to the Secretary of State, local planning
authorities, owners and occupiers, with any objections considered by the relevant
Statutory Nature Conservation Body (SNCB) before a decision to confirm the
notification is made.
Selection criteria vary between Earth Science SSSIs and Biological
For biological sites designation is based on a set of criteria including
naturalness, diversity, typicalness, size, fragility and rarity. ASSIs have
their own selection
guidelines published by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency. Coastal ASSIs were designated after a 1980s survey of Northern Ireland’s coast and
consultation with landowners and statutory bodies.
Some activities in SSSIs/ ASSIs need consent from NE, NRW, SNH or NIEA. For ASSIs, these are known as ‘Notifiable
Operations’. The relevant SNCB will seek a way of managing the operation to
prevent damage to the designated features.
Further information on SSSIs/ASSIs can be found through the
relevant SNCB for each England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.
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