The main piece of legislation behind SACs is the Habitats Directive (Council Directive 92/43/EEC on the Conservation of Natural Habitats and of Wild Flora and Fauna). The aim of the Habitats Directive is to maintain or restore at favourable conservation status certain habitats (listed in Annex I) and species (listed in Annex II) which are of Community importance, through the designation of Special Areas of Conservation.
The Habitats Directive was first transposed into UK law by The Conservation (Natural Habitats &c) Regulations 1994. These Regulations have been amended over the years. The latest version is The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010. These regulations set out the measures that can be employed to protect sites in the marine environment. They apply to all UK sites (inshore and offshore) designated as Special Areas of Conservation.
In June 1998 the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR) published European Marine Sites in England & Wales. A Guide to the Conservation (Natural Habitats &c) Regulations 1994 and to the Preparation and Application of Management Schemes. This guide gives advice on the conservation management of European Marine Sites within the UK. For extracts from the DETR Guide to the Conservation (Natural Habitats &c) Regulations 1994 click here.
Further relevant information can be found on the JNCC and European Commission websites.
Infringements of the Habitats Directive are dealt with by the European Commission.
The Marine and Coastal Access Act received Royal Assent in 2009. This new piece of UK legislation will have much influence on the management of the marine environment in the future. For policy and legislation in the UK and Wales see the DEFRA and Welsh Assembly Government websites respectively.