Marine Natura 2000 network (Marine N2K) - Marine SACs and SPAs

Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs) are designated in response to the requirements of the EU Habitats and Birds Directives, to form part of the Europe-wide Natura 2000 network of protected nature conservation areas. This network is the cornerstone of Europe's nature conservation policy, protecting important habitats and also laying out a strict system of species protection in order to protect biodiversity.

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:

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: 

Useful Links

Further information

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

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