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Marine Protected Areas

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Purpose and terms of reference for the Marine Protected Area Management Steering Group.

Sixty-nine per cent of Wales’ seas are protected for species and habitats.

A marine protected area is any area of sea or shore that is protected by law for the conservation of habitats, species or other natural features. In Wales we have 132 MPAs which protect species and habitats. This short Marine Protection Area animation (external link) explains why we have Marine Protected Areas, and why they're so important. The Joint Nature Conservation Committee website (external link) will tell you about the different types of marine protected areas, where they are, and give you information on our statutory and other obligations for marine conservation.

We know that we need to do more to make sure that our sites are well-managed so species and habitats can continue to thrive. We’ve set up a steering group to look at the ways in which we can improve site management, and you can read more about the group’s work in the document below.

Marine Special Protection Areas

Special Protection Areas (SPAs) are classified under the EU Birds Directive to protect populations of certain rare, vulnerable and migratory species of wild birds and the habitats they depend on.

Wales has 9 marine SPAs.

Following a consultation exercise in 2016 further marine areas have been classified as SPAs:

  • Northern Cardigan Bay/ Gogledd Bae Ceredigion SPA – a new site for wintering red throated diver;  
  • An extension of the existing Ynys Feurig, Cemlyn Bay and the Skerries SPA to include the surrounding seas used by breeding terns. The site has been renamed to Anglesey Terns/ Morwenoliaid Ynys Môn SPA; and
  • An extension of the Skokholm and Skomer SPA to include to the surrounding seas used by breeding Manx shearwater and Atlantic puffin. This is site extends into neighbouring offshore waters and has been renamed as the Skomer, Skokholm and the seas off Pembrokeshire/ Sgomer, Sgogwm a Moroedd Penfro SPA.

Marine Special Areas of Conservation

Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) are designated under the EU Habitats Directive to protect a range of natural habitats and species of plants and animals (other than birds).  

Wales has 11 marine SACs.

Following a consultation exercise in 2016 three candidate SACs for the protection of harbour porpoise have been approved and submitted to the European Commission: 

  • North Anglesey Marine / Gogledd Môn Forol;  
  • West Wales Marine / Cymru Gollewin Forol; and
  • Bristol Channel Approaches / Dynesfeydd Môr Hafren.

Further information is available at the Natural Resources Wales website.