SPA description
(information as published 2001)

Larne Lough

image: SPA location map 


Larne Lough is a sea lough on the east coast of Northern Ireland. It is enclosed to the east by the peninsula of Island Magee. Much of the estuary is shallow, having become extensively infilled with sediments of fine muddy sand, and at low water the largest areas of intertidal flats are exposed in the south of the estuary. The northern parts of the estuary are wider and relatively deep, especially at the mouth where dredging is regularly carried out. In the upper reaches of the estuary at Ballycarry, there is an area of saltmarsh. As the effects of salinity and differing tidal inundation are not greatly felt in the upper parts of Larne Lough, the saltmarsh zonation patterns are not distinct. The vegetation is dominated by mid-upper saltmarsh communities and a Phragmites australis reedbed, with some saltmarsh pans. The lough is of importance as a breeding and feeding area for a number of tern species as well as being a wintering site for the Canada/Ireland population of Light-bellied Brent Goose Branta bernicla hrota.

The site also includes the subsumed SPA of Swan Island which was subject to separate classification.
For more information see Phased, extended and subsumed SPAs

Qualifying species

For individual species accounts visit the Species Accounts section

This site qualifies under Article 4.1 of the Directive (79/409/EEC) by supporting populations of European importance of the following species listed on Annex I of the Directive:
During the breeding season;
Common Tern Sterna hirundo, 180 pairs representing 5.8% of the breeding population in Ireland
Roseate Tern Sterna dougallii, 6 pairs representing 1.5% of the breeding population in Ireland (5 year mean, 1993-1997)
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis, 165 individuals representing 3.8% of the breeding population in Ireland



This site also qualifies under Article 4.2 of the Directive (79/409/EEC) by supporting populations of European importance of the following migratory species:
Over winter;
Light-bellied Brent Goose Branta bernicla hrota, 227 individuals representing 1.1% of the wintering Canada/Ireland population (5 year peak mean 1991/2 - 1995/6)


Many designated sites are on private land: the listing of a site in these pages does not imply any right of public access.
Note that sites selected for waterbird species on the basis of their occurrence in the breeding, passage or winter periods also provide legal protection for these species when they occur at other times of the year.