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SPAs with marine components

Special Protection Areas (SPAs) are areas on land or at sea which protect vulnerable bird species in the UK. They form part of the UK's national site network and the UK's contribution to the OSPAR Commission's network of MPAs.

In the UK, the suite of SPAs on land is well established, however, at sea the work to set up ‘SPAs with marine components’ is still ongoing. While there are already many SPAs in inshore waters, including, for example, some seabird colony SPAs with seaward extensions, only a few stretch into offshore waters beyond the territorial sea limit (see the list of SPAs with marine components).

SPAs with ‘marine components’ protect bird species listed in the Birds Directive (2009/147/EC) as Annex I or as regularly occurring migratory species, that are dependent on the marine environment for all or part of their life-cycle, where these species are found in association with intertidal or subtidal habitats within the site. Sixty bird species are currently protected in UK SPAs with marine components. There are currently 123 SPAs with marine components in UK waters, protecting internationally important estuaries, stretches of coastline and areas of open sea. SPAs with marine components are displayed on the MPA mapper and a list of these sites, their qualifying bird species and site boundaries are available on JNCC's Resource Hub.

JNCC's role

JNCC is responsible for identifying and recommending SPAs in the UK offshore marine area where they would be protected by The Conservation of Offshore Marine Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 (as amended), other regulations apply in inshore waters.

Of the 123 SPAs with marine components in the UK, eight fall wholly or partly in UK offshore waters. An overview of these SPAs is provided in the table below, with links to further information on individual sites and their protected features.

SPA Protected species
Skomer, Skokholm and the Seas off Pembrokeshire/ Sgomer, Sgogwm a Moroedd Penfro SPA

European storm petrel Hydrobates pelagicus

Red-billed chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax

Short-eared owl Asio flammeus

Manx shearwater Puffinus puffinus

Atlantic puffin Fratercula arctica

Lesser black-backed gull Larus fuscus

Seabird assemblage

Outer Thames Estuary SPA

Red-throated diver Gavia stellata

Common tern Sterna hirundo

Little tern Sternula albifrons

Liverpool Bay / Bae Lerpwl SPA

Red-throated diver Gavia stellata

Little gull Hydrocoloeus minutus

Common scoter Melanitta nigra

Little tern Sternula albifrons

Common tern Sterna hirundo

Waterbird assemblage

Irish Sea Front SPA Manx shearwater Puffinus puffinus
Greater Wash SPA

Red-throated diver Gavia stellata

Little gull Hydrocoloeus minutus

Common scoter Melanitta nigra

Sandwich tern Sterna sandvicencis

Little tern Sternula albifrons

Common tern Sterna hirundo

Seas off Foula SPA

Great skua Stercorarius skua

Northern fulmar Fulmarus glacialis

Arctic skua Stercorarius parasiticus

Common guillemot Uria aalge

Atlantic puffin Fratercula arctica

Seas off St Kilda SPA

Northern gannet Morus bassanus

European storm-petrel Hydrobates pelagicus

northern fulmar Fulmarus glacialis

common guillemot Uria aalge

Atlantic puffin Fratercula arctica

Outer Firth of Forth and St Andrews Bay Complex SPA

Red-throated diver Gavia stellata

Little gull Hydrocoloeus minutus

Common tern Sterna hirundo

Arctic tern Sterna paradisaea

Slavonian grebe Podiceps auritus

Common eider Somateria mollissima mollissima

Long-tailed duck Clangula hyemalis

Common scoter Melanitta nigra

Velvet scoter Melanitta fusca

Common goldeneye Bucephala clangula

Red-breasted merganser Mergus serrator

Northern gannet Morus bassanus

Manx shearwater Puffinus puffinus

European shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis

Black-legged kittiwake Rissa tridactyla

Common guillemot Uria aalge

Razorbill Alca torda

Atlantic puffin Fratercula arctica

Black-headed gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus

Common gull Larus canus

Herring gull Larus argentatus

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Site Selection and Classification process

To find important areas which could be considered to become SPAs in UK waters, JNCC and the country nature conservation bodies (CNCBs) follow a clear site selection process. Of all marine areas considered in this process, only those meeting the UK SPA Site Selection guidelines can become SPAs. Once an area has been identified following this process and meeting the guidelines, JNCC and the other CNCBs recommend to government that it should become an SPA. While government considers this step, the area is called a potential/proposed SPA (pSPA) and the site is provisionally afforded protection until a final decision is made. If the government decides to follow the recommendation and to classify the area, it will become an SPA and protection will continue to be in place.

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Management

Management within SPAs seeks to avoid adverse effects on the protected birds from human activities.  All activities within the site, or outside the site, should be managed in such a way as to minimise disturbance and death of the protected birds, or of the habitat and food organisms which are important for them.

 

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About Marine Protected Areas

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