Offshore SACs


Click to link to the interactive map

Since August 2007 the UK has had the legal mechanism to designate SACs in the UK offshore marine area under the Conservation of Offshore Marine Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 .


JNCC is responsible for identifying SACs in the UK offshore marine area. This includes waters beyond 12 nautical miles, within the Exclusive Economic Zone and the seabed within the UK Continental Shelf Designated Area. For areas within the UK Continental Shelf Designated Area but beyond the Exclusive Economic Zone, JNCC can recommend SACs for habitat features associated with the seabed only.


Sites crossing the 12 nautical mile boundary and lying more than 90% in offshore waters have been progressed by JNCC. Sites between 10 and 90% in offshore waters have been progressed jointly by JNCC and the relevant country conservation agency.


Status of UK offshore SACs

Twenty-five sites in UK offshore waters have been formally recommended by JNCC to UK Government, and they have been submitted to the European Commission to become candidate SACs. The first five were submitted to the EC on 31st August 2008, six on the 20th August 2010, one on the 26th August 2011, three further sites on 30th August 2012 and five sites on the 31 October 2012. Further sites for Harbour Porpoise were submitted in January 2017. 

 For more information on specific MPAs in offshore waters, see our online Site Information Centres


Protected Features

Sites submitted as candidate SACs or designated as SACs contain examples of Annex I submarine structures made by leaking gases; reef; and sandbanks.


Areas of Search

Areas of Search for future offshore SACs are based upon the best available evidence of the location of Annex I protected features. For the majority of UK offshore waters the data available on the habitats present is sparse. JNCC has a programme to survey offshore areas that are deemed as a high priority for inclusion in the SAC network.

There is currently one Area of Search (AoS) for SACs in offshore waters: the North-west Anglesey Reef AoS, located in the Irish Sea. This can be viewed on the UK MPA Interactive map and a shapefile of the point locations of the AoS is available to download.