Marine Protection in Wales

Manx shearwaters ©Chris Gomersall/2020VISION

Wales - Marine Conservation Zones

In 2014, Skomer Island became Wales’ first Marine Conservation Zone. Before this, it had been a Marine Nature Reserve for 24 years. The Welsh Government is currently developing options to fill gaps in the UK-wide network of Marine Protected Areas. 

Living Seas in Wales

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 Wales, Natura 2000 sites include such iconic areas as Cardigan Bay and the Llyn Peninsula.

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 Wales include the sandbanks, reefs and mudflats of Menai Strait and Conwy Bay, and the rugged rocky shores of the Llyn Peninsula. You can find out more about SACs in Wales, including a full list of sites, 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.

Wales has a number of coastal and marine SPAs dedicated to the protection of its spectacular seabirds, from the noisy tern colonies of Anglesey to the islands of Skomer and Skokholm, studded with the burrows of puffins and home to half the global population of Manx shearwaters. Further information about SPAs in Wales, including a full list of sites, can be found on the JNCC website.