Status: Special Protection Area (SPA)
Liverpool Bay / Bae Lerpwl SPA is in the east of the Irish Sea, bordering the coastlines of north-west England and north Wales. The boundary of Liverpool Bay / Bae Lerpwl SPA extends beyond 12 nautical miles and therefore lies partly in Welsh and English territorial waters and partly in offshore waters; hence it is a site for which Natural England, Natural Resources Wales, and JNCC have responsibility to provide statutory advice.
Liverpool Bay / Bae Lerpwl SPA is in the east of the Irish Sea, bordering the coastlines of north-west England and north Wales, and running as a broad arc from Morecambe Bay to the east coast of Anglesey. It is classified for the protection of red-throated diver (Gavia stellata), common scoter (Melanitta nigra), and little gull (Hydrocoloeus minutus) in the non-breeding season; common tern (Sterna hirundo) and little tern (Sterna albifrons) in the breeding season, and an internationally important waterbird assemblage.
Map displaying the Liverpool Bay MPA boundary and associated protected feature data. Visit JNCC's MPA Mapper to further view and explore data for this MPA.
Liverpool Bay / Bae Lerpwl SPA encompasses marine areas supporting large aggregations of wintering red-throated diver and common scoter as well as important marine foraging areas of little terns breeding within The Dee Estuary SPA, and foraging areas of common terns breeding at the Mersey Narrows & North Wirral Foreshore SPA.
The boundary of Liverpool Bay / Bae Lerpwl SPA extends beyond 12 nautical miles and therefore lies partly in Welsh and English territorial waters and partly in offshore waters; hence it is a site for which Natural England, Natural Resources Wales, and JNCC have responsibility to provide statutory advice.
More detailed site information can be found in the Summary section below.
Legislation behind the designation: The Liverpool Bay marine Special Protection Area was classified by the UK Government to meet obligations set out in the Birds Directive (2009/147/EC), and is protected by The Conservation of Offshore Marine Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 (as amended). Other regulations apply in inshore waters.
|Feature||Feature type||% of population||Conservation Objective1|
(in non-breeding season)
|Annex I species||6.89% GB||Maintain or Restore|
(in non-breeding season)
|Annex I species||N/A||Maintain or Restore|
(in non-breeding season)
|Regularly occurring migratory species||10.31% of NW European||Maintain or Restore|
|Waterbird assemblage2||Assemblage||N/A||Maintain or Restore|
(in breeding season)
|Annex I species||6.84% GB||Maintain or Restore|
(in breeding season)
|Annex I species||1.80% GB||Maintain or Restore|
1 Note that the wording is in accordance with the supplementary document to the Conservation Advice, drafted to provide information during the public consultation. See also the Conservation Advice section.
2 The main components of the assemblage include all of the non-breeding qualifying features listed above, as well as an additional two species present in numbers exceeding 1% of the GB total: red-breasted merganser (Mergus serrator) and great cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo).
The overarching conservation objectives for the protected features of this site are to ensure they either remain in, or reach favourable condition. The ability of a designated feature to remain in, or reach favourable condition can be affected by its sensitivity to pressures associated with activities taking place within or in close proximity to a protected site.
Specific information on the conservation objectives relating to this SPA is provided in the Conservation Advice section.
The diagram below is a summary of the key milestones involved in the selection and classification of the Liverpool Bay / Bae Lerpwl SPA.
The documents referred to below and any other historical documents relating to Liverpool Bay / Bae Lerpwl SPA were produced during the selection and classification process and therefore may be out of date. This Site Information Centre is the most up-to-date source of information for this SPA, and will reflect any additional information gathered since these documents were produced.
- Standard Data Form – provides details about the SPA and the classified feature.
- Departmental Brief (2016) – a more detailed overview of the SPA, and rationale for the classification of the site.
- Conservation Objectives – information about feature sensitivity, vulnerability and risk and the Conservation Objectives for the classified features of the site.
The current conservation objectives for the existing Liverpool Bay / Bae Lerpwl SPA are set out in the existing Regulation 35 advice for the site. These objectives continue to apply until, in due course, NRW, NE and JNCC formally issue revised 'Regulation 35/18 advice' for the extended/reclassified SPA.
Supplementary material has also been drafted for Liverpool Bay / Bae Lerpwl SPA, which outlines the most current thinking on the conservation advice and which should be read in conjunction with the Regulation 35 advice.
Information about the SPA site selection process is available on JNCC's SPA webpages.
The Liverpool Bay / Bae Lerpwl SPA is in the east of the Irish Sea, bordering northern England and north Wales, and running as a broad arc from Morecambe Bay to the east coast of Anglesey. It covers an area of c. 2,528 km2, classified for the protection of red-throated diver (Gavia stellata), common scoter (Melanitta nigra), and little gull (Hydrocoloeus minutus) during the non-breeding season, as well as a waterbird assemblage, and foraging areas for little tern (Sternula albifrons) and common tern (Sterna hirundo) breeding within coastal SPAs.
At the time of the extension of the SPA in 2017, it protects the largest aggregation of common scoters, the largest marine aggregation of little gull, and the third largest aggregation of red-throated diver in the UK. It also supports foraging areas for nearly 7% of the GB population of little terns, and nearly 2% of the GB population common terns.
The seabed of Liverpool Bay / Bae Lerpwl SPA contains a wide range of mobile sediments. Sand is the most common substrate, with a concentrated area of gravelly sand located off the Mersey Estuary. Tidal currents within the Bay are generally weak and do not exceed 2 m/sec. This in conjunction with an extended tidal range of 6–8 m facilitates deposition of sediments and encourages mud and sand belts to accumulate.
The population estimates and important usage areas for non-breeding red-throated diver, common scoter, little gull were identified from data collected using visual aerial survey over five winter seasons (2004/05, 2005/06, 2006/07, 2007/08 and 2010/11). The waterbird assemblage feature was also identified based on these data. Important foraging areas for little tern were identified from shore and boat-based surveys (2009, 2010, 2011) undertaken around the Dee Estuary SPA; while important usage areas for common tern around the Mersey Narrows and North Wirral Foreshore SPA were identified from models of common tern foraging behaviour generated from visual tracking surveys at selected colonies around the UK. The population of little tern expected to forage within the boundary is determined by the population size (a 5-year mean of Apparently Occupied Nests based on data from 2010–2014) at Gronant Beach.
Further detail on the evidence for this SPA can be found in the Evidence section.
Site area: c. 2,528 km2.
Site depth range: Water depth within the site ranges from mean low water to about 66 m water depth.
Site boundary description
The SPA lies mainly in English and Welsh territorial waters, but extends out to, and beyond 12 nautical miles at the north-west point of the existing boundary to Liverpool Bay / Bae Lerpwl SPA; hence it is a site for which Natural England, Natural Resource Wales and JNCC have a shared responsibility to provide statutory advice.
The landward boundary of the SPA generally follows mean low water mark or the boundaries of existing SPAs, whichever is the furthest seaward. The extension at Prestatyn and Mersey for foraging terns follows mean high water or the boundaries of existing SPAs. Therefore, the landward boundary of Liverpool Bay / Bae Lerpwl SPA will be adjacent to (but not adjoin) Morecambe Bay and Duddon Estuary SPA and directly meet the seaward boundaries of Ribble and Alt Estuaries SPA, Mersey Narrows and North Wirral Foreshore SPA, The Dee Estuary SPA and Traeth Lafan / Lavan Sands, Conway Bay SPA. There is a small overlap with the northernmost edge of Mersey Estuary SPA and the site entirely surrounds Ynys Seiriol / Puffin Island SPA. There is also an overlap with the Anglesey Terns / Morwenoliaid Ynys Môn SPA. Intertidal mudbanks and sandbanks separated from the mainland coast by subtidal areas at Mean Low Water are within the SPA boundary, except where they are within the boundaries of existing SPAs, as is the case in parts of the Mersey Narrows and North Wirral Foreshore SPA and The Dee Estuary SPA.
Information for this site summary was adapted from documents listed in the Relevant Documentation section.
The full overview of the data used to support site identification along with information on confidence in the protected features occurrence and abundance is available in theLiverpool Bay / Bae Lerpwl SPA Departmental Brief.
Survey and data gathering
- Visual aerial survey (2004/05 – 2010/11) – Data on bird distribution and abundance from visual aerial surveys were conducted between the winter seasons of 2004/05 and 2010/11 for little gulls, common scoters and red-throated divers. Further details on the methods and survey coverage are available in JNCC Report No. 576, below.
- Seabird Monitoring Programme (SMP) (2010-2015) – The population estimates for relevant colonies contributing to Liverpool Bay / Bae Lerpwl SPA were derived from the most recently available numbers, at the time of classification. from the Seabird Monitoring Programme (SMP) database; and calculated as the sum of the numbers of those species at each of the existing SPAs from which the individuals recorded at sea are most likely to originate
- Little tern boat-based survey and shore-based counts (2009–2013) – Between 2009 and 2013 JNCC co-ordinated a programme of survey work to identify important foraging areas for little terns. Surveys were conducted during the chick rearing period each year and comprised repeated shore-based counts of little tern seen at a series of observation stations at increasing distance from the colony locations, and repeated boat-based surveys along transects across the waters around colonies. These surveys sought to establish the distances both alongshore and offshore that little terns were travelling to feed.
- Larger terns boat-based visual tracking of foraging birds (2009–2011) – JNCC co-ordinated a programme of visual tracking work between 2009 and 2011 to identify important foraging areas at a number of UK colonies. These surveys were conducted during the chick-rearing period in each year and comprised repeated days of observations of individual terns whose tracks were followed by boat as they left the colony to forage.
Data analysis reports
- Quantifying foraging areas of little tern around its breeding colony SPA during chick-rearing (JNCC Report No. 548, 2015) – This report describes work undertaken between 2009 and 2013 to quantify usage of the marine environment by little tern around its breeding colony SPAs in the UK where these remain regularly occupied.
- Quantifying usage of the marine environment by Sterna sp. around their breeding colony SPAs (JNCC Report No. 500, 2014) – This report describes work undertaken between 2009 and 2013 to quantify usage of the marine environment by the four larger tern Sterna species around their breeding colony SPAs in the UK where these remain regularly occupied.
- An assessment of the numbers and distributions of wintering waterbirds and seabirds in Liverpool Bay/Bae Lerpwl area of search (JNCC Report No. 576, 2015) – The report presents the numbers of wintering aggregations of inshore waterbirds and indicates if species exceed their respective population thresholds under the UK SPA Selection Guidelines within the area of search during the visual aerial surveys of 2004/05 – 2010/11.
Additional relevant literature
Please be aware that although these sources contain information which is of interest in relation to this SPA, they do not necessarily represent the views of JNCC:
- O’Brien, S.H., Webb, A., Brewer, M.J., Reid, J.A. 2012. Use of kernel density estimation and maximum curvature to set Marine Protected Area boundaries: Identifying a Special Protection Area for wintering red-throated divers in the UK. Biological Conservation, 156, 15–21.
- O'Brien, S.H., Wilson, L.J., Webb, A. & Cranswick, P.A. 2008. Revised estimate of numbers of wintering Red-throated Divers Gavia stellata in Great Britain. Bird Study, 55(2), 152–160.
If you are aware of any additional data or relevant scientific papers for this site not listed in the relevant documentation please contact us.
Conservation objectives set out the desired state for the protected feature(s) of an MPA. The current conservation objectives for the protected features of Liverpool Bay SPA have been set based on knowledge of the condition of the protected features at the time of writing. The current high-level conservation objectives set out the intention of the SPA. The conservation and advice package is designed to help stakeholders understand how to interpret the conservation objectives and what it means for management of the site. JNCC, Natural England and Natural Resources Wales are in the process of updating this advice to reflect the extension of Liverpool Bay / Bae Lerpwl SPA in 2017 and most recent evidence around conservation needs for the site's features.
This information is useful if you are:
- preparing Habitats Regulations Assessments (HRAs) of proposed plans or projects that may affect the site;
- planning measures to maintain or enhance the site and its qualifying features;
- monitoring the condition of the qualifying features; or
- developing, proposing or assessing an activity, plan or project that may affect the site.
The conservation objectives for the protected features of the SPA are to ensure that subject to natural change, the integrity of the site is maintained or restored as appropriate, and ensure that the site contributes to achieving the aims of the Wild Birds Directive, by maintaining or restoring:
- The extent and distribution of the habitats of the qualifying features;
- The structure and function of the habitats of the qualifying features;
- The supporting processes on which the habitats of the qualifying features rely;
- The population of each of the qualifying features; and,
- The distribution of the qualifying features within the site.
Our scientific understanding of the ecology of the site, its integrity, its qualifying features and how activities can affect them may change over time. The conservation advice produced by JNCC, NRW and NE will be kept under review and will be periodically updated to reflect this. Conservation advice for sites which straddle the 12 nm boundary will continue to be developed jointly with the relevant country nature conservation body. Further information is available on JNCC’s conservation advice webpage. Information can also be found on the Natural Resources Wales and Natural England websites.
Activities and Management
Last updated: June 2017
This site forms part of the networks of MPAs across the UK and contributes to international networks such as that of the North-east Atlantic under OSPAR. As the UK is a contracting party to the OSPAR Commission, JNCC is committed to ensuring that the OSPAR MPA network is well-managed.
JNCC considers well-managed to mean the timely progress of an MPA around the 'MPA management cycle'. This involves:
- The documentation of appropriate management information – conservation objectives, advice on activities capable of affecting the protected features of a site, and spatial information on the presence and extent of the protected features of a site.
- The implementation of management measures – management actions considered necessary to achieve the conservation objectives of a site.
- Site condition monitoring programmes – collecting the information necessary to determine progress towards a site's conservation objectives.
- Assessment of progress towards conservation objectives – using available information to infer whether or not a site is moving towards or has achieved its conservation objectives.
The sub-sections that follow provide an account of the progress of Liverpool Bay / Bae Lerpwl SPA around each of the four stages in the MPA management cycle.
1. The documentation of appropriate management information
The conservation objectives and advice on activities capable of affecting the conservation status of the protected feature of this site are available in the Conservation Advice section.
2. The implementation of management measures
This section details progress towards the implementation of management measures for activities considered capable of affecting the conservation status of the protected feature of the site.
A Site Improvement Plan was produced for the site prior to the amendments in 2017 and covers the inshore part of this site, advised on by Natural England and Natural Resources Wales. The plan provides a high-level overview of the issues (both current and predicted) affecting the condition of the sites protected features and outlines the priority measures required to improve their condition. An updated version of this plan will be provided when available to reflect the additional features and boundary amendments.
The protected features of the site are considered to be sensitive to pressures associated with fishing, 'licensable' activities and disturbance including shipping.
More detailed information will be presented here when it becomes available.
3. Site condition monitoring
More detailed information will be provided here when it becomes available.
4. Assessment of progress towards conservation objectives
More detailed information will be provided here when it becomes available.
JNCC is currently leading on the development of options for biodiversity monitoring across all UK waters. JNCC’s advice for marine birds, which will include SPA monitoring, is anticipated to contain:
- A summary of existing monitoring schemes which provide annual trends in abundance and breeding success of seabirds; and trends in the number of waterbirds using coastal sites to breed, stopover on migration or to over-winter; along with options to improve their precision;
- Options for monitoring and surveillance of inshore and offshore aggregations of seabirds and waterbirds at sea and how these options can best be integrated with the above existing surveillance schemes (including whether coordinated monitoring of the existing/proposed marine SPA network can contribute to these);
- Integration with indicator development work for Marine Strategy Framework Directive.
Information on monitoring of this SPA will be provided here when it becomes available.
More detailed information on monitoring surveys in the site will be provided here when it becomes available.
Last updated: December 2020
Under Article 12 of the EU Wild Birds Directive (2009/147/EC), Member States are required to report every six years on their progress on the implementation of the Directive. Following the UK's exit from the European Union, this section will be updated to reflect the new assessment schemes once they are in place.