European Marine Sites - Marine Special Areas of Conservation and Special Protection Areas

Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs) are designated under the Conservation (Natural Habitats, etc.) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1995 (as amended). These regulations implemented the Habitats Directive and will continue to apply after 1 January 2021. Some operability changes have been made through the Conservation (Natural Habitats, etc.) (Amendment) (Northern Ireland) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019.

SACs and SPAs in the UK no longer form part of the EU’s Natura 2000 network. Instead, they contribute to a UK national site network on land and at sea, including both the inshore and offshore marine areas. 

UK Government Ministers have confirmed that the UK’s former Natura 2000 sites in the national site network will continue to be the UK’s contribution to the Emerald Network.

European Marine Sites are SACs and SPAs (European Sites) which consist of marine areas.

Marine features in the National Site Network

DAERA Marine and Fisheries Division takes responsibility for the marine features and the designation process is carried out in co-operation with NIEA Natural Environment Division, who deals with the biological and geological terrestrial features and the freshwater features of the designated areas.

The designations protect the feature habitats and species, as any plan or project likely to have a significant effect on the U.K. National Site Network must be assessed and competent authorities can only agree to the plan or project going ahead after having ascertained that it will not adversely affect the features of the designated site/s concerned or the integrity of the network.

Marine SACs

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

Marine SACs are not normally underpinned as Areas of Special Scientific Interest (ASSIs), except in intertidal areas and estuaries. Marine SACs are protected and conserved by working with the various maritime competent authorities to ensure that activities under their control are managed appropriately.

List of Marine SACs

See below for details of current SAC that are MPAs in Northern Ireland:

Marine SPAs

NIEA Natural Environment Division is responsible for the designation and management of SPAs. DAERA Marine and Fisheries Division works closely with NIEA supporting them through the provision of expert knowledge and monitoring for the SPA management of marine and coastal sites.

The SPAs below contribute to the MPA network:

Useful links

Further information

For further information on Northern Ireland Marine SACs and SPAs, contact:

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