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Special Areas of Conservation  

The 1992 Rio Earth Summit put biodiversity firmly on the global political agenda. The same year, the European Communities produced the Habitats Directive (Council Directive 92/43/EEC on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora). The main aim of the Habitats Directive is to help to conserve the diversity of habitats and species across the European Union. This it aims to deliver through the designation of Special Areas of Conservation (SAC's).

All the Special Areas of Conservation across Europe (terrestrial and marine) are networked together along with Special Protection Areas to form the Natura 2000 series. This network includes representative samples of all habitats and species of Community Interest.

There are currently 107 SACs with marine components, covering 7.6% of the UK sea area. For more information see the JNCC website.

The UK Marine SACs Project ran from 1996 to 2001. The Project, aided by LIFE funding, was set up to establish management schemes on selected marine Special Areas of Conservation (SACs). It focused on a selection of 12 marine SACs around the UK, and on developing specific areas of knowledge needed for the management and monitoring of European Marine Sites. This work helped shape the future of SAC management in the UK.


Now, with the majority of SACs in the UK being formally designated in 2004, many sites have specific management in place to help protect their conservation features. Many sites have jointly produced management schemes in place or under development, and some sites have site-specific officers in post.

The virtual UK Marine Protected Areas Centre acts as a resource for information and news on Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in the UK. It holds factual information about MPAs, their designations, habitats, species, and activities. It provides current news, research and activities on MPAs in addition to linking to existing websites of individual European Marine Sites, other MPAs in the UK and to partner websites. The website also draws together resources that help to build capacity amongst UK MPA practitioners and facilitates sharing information, good practice and learning.

Click on image for map of UK MPAs