View from Bentlass (John Archer-Thomson)


The Pembrokeshire Marine Special Area of Conservation (SAC) has been chosen because it contains some of the best examples of marine habitats and species of European importance. This is despite the locally intensive pressures of human activities on the marine environment, particularly during the last century.

The management aim of the SAC is to maintain its rich and diverse marine life in at least as good a condition as when the site was first designated, and to improve that, with the aim of bringing all designated species and habitat features into ‘Favourable Conservation Status’.  This doesn’t mean that we cannot continue to use and enjoy the natural resources of the area, but that any activities have to be carried out sustainably.

Spider crab male (Rohan Holt at CloudBase Productions Ltd)


Marine and coastal environmental management can be complex, with no single organisation responsible for the entire coastline or all the activities found here.

Management of the SAC is through the Relevant Authorities Group (RAG) a body of organisations and authorities with specific legal responsibilities to take care of the site. However, the marine area is used by many different people for a wide variety of reasons and management would never be successful if it were not for the input of individuals and interest groups around the site.

The Relevant Authorities for the Pembrokeshire Marine SAC are:

Welsh Government are a crucial manager of the Welsh marine environment and are also kept informed.

It is extremely important that these organisations work together as the marine environment is a shared responsibility. The Pembrokeshire Marine SAC relevant authorities generally meet quarterly to discuss management needs and share information. Minutes of meetings are available from the SAC Officer.

The SAC Officer works for the Relevant Authorities Group. The role of the SAC Officer is to coordinate the management of the SAC. This includes:

  • Partnership working.
  • Securing funding and developing and managing projects to reduce impacts on site features, working towards favourable condition.
  • Producing, reviewing and updating site management documents.
  • Stakeholder engagement.
  • Raising awareness.
  • Representing sites at a national / network level.

For more information on the SAC and Pembrokeshire’s marine environment please contact the SAC Officer.

Red sea fingers soft coral with sponges and hydroids on reef (Rohan Holt at CloudBase Productions Ltd)

What? Activity Management

Many activities, such as fishing or developments, which take place around the Pembrokeshire Marine SAC are licensed by individual Relevant Authorities. When issuing permissions or licences, the authority must take into account any potential impacts on the protected area. Non-licensable activities, such as recreational activities, are jointly managed.

In practice, the European Marine Site makes very little difference to most people on a day-to-day basis. The only activities that may be affected will be those that are likely to have a significant effect on the interest features. Most activities will not do this and so will not be affected. Those that are considered to pose a threat to the interest features will be carefully assessed to see how any damaging effects may be avoided.

Natural Resources Wales (NRW) as the statutory nature conservation advisor to government provides information on operations that might cause damage to a feature or features of the SAC. This information is contained within the conservation advice package, Natural Resources Wales / Conservation Advice for European marine sites (Reg 37)

The joint Management Scheme for the site, a collaborative document, sets out the active or planned management for all activities that are known to take place within or adjacent to the SAC.

Estuary at Little Milford with adjacent agriculure (John Archer-Thomson)

How? SAC Management Scheme

A Management Scheme for the SAC was published in 2008. This set out to cover all the work that needs to be done to take care of the site and the protected species and habitats that can be found here.

This was a collaborative document pulled together by the Relevant Authorities working together with users of the site and all those with an interest. The Management Scheme needs updating, but much remains relevant. The Action Plan contained within it is regularly considered and forms the basis of the Relevant Authorities Group’s rolling work programme.

The Management Scheme is underpinned by the site’s Conservation Objectives that have been produced by Natural Resources Wales (NRW). Natural Resources Wales / Conservation Advice for European marine sites (Reg 37)

Management Scheme documents can be downloaded from the downloads page.

Pink Sea Fan Skomer North Wall (John Archer-Thomson)

How? Wider Management

The Management Scheme is linked with NRW’s Actions Database, which lists actions for all SACs in Wales. The Management Scheme compliments the database by providing context and rationale for the noted actions. It also includes all the actions needed to maintain site management such as education, awareness raising and engagement.

Actions from the Management Scheme and the Actions Database are used to create a work programme for the site, and this then determines what projects are needed.

Some actions are local, and some may be common to other marine protected areas across the network in which case they are developed and implemented jointly with those sites (or nationally) as applicable.

Cliona celata the boring sponge (Rohan Holt at CloudBase Productions Ltd)
Blue rayed limpets on kelp

Progress reporting/updates