Northern Ireland MPAs

Marine Protection in Northern Ireland

Grey seal ©Chris Gomersall/2020VISION

Northern Ireland – Marine Conservation Zones

Northern Ireland’s long awaited Marine Act passed at the end of 2013, creating Northern Ireland’s first national Marine Conservation Zone in Strangford Lough. The Northern Ireland Assembly designated a further four Marine Conservation Zones in 2016.

Most recently in 2019, a further two Marine Conservation Zones (Queenie Corner and South Rigg) were designated in Northern Irish waters.

Living Seas in Northern Ireland

European Marine Sites are areas at sea protected by European law for their special wildlife and natural habitats.

These include Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs), which together form part of a Europe-wide network of protected areas on land and at sea (the ‘Natura 2000’ network) designed to safeguard the wildlife most at risk. In Northern Ireland, Natura 2000 sites include Red Bay and The Maidens.

Both SACs and SPAs play a critical conservation role by providing wildlife refuges for nationally threatened species and habitats. They are a key part of a network of Marine Protected Areas in UK waters.

What's a Special Area of Conservation?

Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) are areas which have been given special protection under the European Union’s Habitats Directive. They provide increased protection to a variety of wild animals, plants and habitats and are a vital part of global efforts to conserve the world’s biodiversity.

Coastal and marine SACs in Northern Ireland include Rathlin Island and Strangford Lough. Further information about SACs, including a full list of those in Northern Ireland, is available on the JNCC website.

What's a Special Protection Area?

SPAs are areas identified as of international importance for the breeding, feeding, wintering or migration of rare and vulnerable species of birds found within European Union countries. They are European designated sites, classified under the Birds Directive which provides enhanced protection.

Coastal SPAs in Northern Ireland include Sheep Island and Carlingford Lough. Further information about SPAs can be found on the JNCC website.