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The Big Picture  

SACs are all about biodiversity – European biodiversity. But biodiversity in need of protecting on a European level, is also biodiversity that needs protecting on a country (in this case Wales) or UK level. And protecting biodiversity on any level helps to contribute to global biodiversity conservation.

The UK Biodiversity Action Plan, published in 1994, was the UK Government’s response to signing the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. Biodiversity protection is also embedded in the Countryside and Rights of Way Act. Protecting the SAC contributes towards local and national biodiversity targets, as well as fulfilling statutory European obligations.

When it comes to the Welsh marine environment, the Assembly Government’s key aim, as set out in The Environment Strategy for Wales, is:

“Our seas will be clean, support vibrant economies and healthy and functioning ecosystems that are biologically diverse, productive and resilient, while being sensitively used and responsibly managed.”

Wales’s vision is also set out in Our Seas – a Shared Resource – UK High Level Marine Objectives published on 20 April 2009.

The partnership officers for the marine SACs around Wales meet collectively as the Welsh GEMS (Group of European Marine Sites). By working together, and linking with the Wales Biodiversity Partnership, collective effort is disseminated across Wales to help ensure that Wales’s marine biodiversity isn’t forgotten, and that biodiversity targets and legislative needs are integrated into local action.

At a national level the key mechanisms for marine wildlife protection are:

Important international and European measures of marine wildlife protection include:



If protecting marine biodiversity, for its own sake, isn’t enough for you, then consider that our seas also provide us with many goods and services including:

Climate regulation. Our oceans regulate our climate by redistributing heat around the world. Evaporation from the oceans forms the moisture that results in rain on land. The plankton in their uppermost layers help stimulate cloud formation due to the chemicals they naturally emit. This plays a crucial role in temperature regulation of our planet.

Food sources. The oceans provide food for hundreds of millions of people worldwide.
Storing carbon. Oceans act as the largest store of carbon on the planet, drawing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and trapping it.

Energy. We obtain oil and gas from under the sea bed. Offshore windfarms also provide a source of renewable energy, and waves and tides provide a further potential resource.

Building materials. We use marine aggregates such as sand and gravels as building materials.

Transport. The marine environment also links us to the rest of the world. In 2007 24.8 million passengers took international journeys by ship and UK ports handled 582 million tonnes (Mt) of freight traffic.

Recreation. Our seas and coasts provide a place for a wide variety of leisure activities from sailing and scuba diving to swimming and surfing.

It is no exaggeration to say that all surface life depends o n life inside and beneath the oceans – so we need to look after it!