Marine Features in the Natura 2000 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 Natura 2000 network must be rigorously assessed and the competent national authorities can only legally 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 Special Areas of Conservation (SACs)
SACs are designated under the Habitats Directive as part of the EU Natura 2000 network. In Northern Ireland designation of SACs with Marine Components is carried out jointly by DAERA Marine and Fisheries Division and NIEA Natural Environment Division.
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.
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 sites with marine components in Northern Ireland:
- Murlough SAC
- Rathlin Island SAC
- Red Bay SAC
- Skerries and Causeway SAC
- Strangford Lough SAC
- The Maidens SAC
- North Channel SCI
Marine Special Protection Areas (SPAs)
SPAs are designated under the European Commission Directive on the Conservation of Wild Birds. 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.
List of Marine SPAs
The sites below are the SPAs in Northern Ireland that have a marine component:
- Belfast Lough SPA
- Belfast Lough Open Water SPA
- Carlingford Lough SPA
- Killough Bay SPA
- Larne Lough SPA
- Lough Foyle SPA
- Outer Ards SPA
- Rathlin Island SPA
- Strangford Lough SPA
- The Habitats Directive - European Commission website
- Birds Directive - European Commission website
- Managing Natura 2000 Sites
- Rathlin Island European Marine Site Management Scheme
- Rathlin Island’s dynamic coast and seas
- JNCC Harbour Porpoise SAC
For further information on Northern Ireland Marine SACs and SPAs, contact: