1.6.4 Selection of offshore sites


The Habitats Regulations apply to the UK land area and its territorial sea (out to 12 nautical miles from low-water mark) (see Section In August 2007 the Offshore Marine Conservation (Natural Habitats &c.) Regulations came into force, providing the legislation to designate sites in UK offshore waters.

In November 1999, the UK High Court found in favour of Greenpeace in its case against the UK Government regarding implementation of the Habitats Directive offshore (CO/1336/99). The court found that "the Habitats Directive applies to the UK continental shelf and to the superadjacent [sic] waters up to a limit of 200 nautical miles from the baseline from which the territorial sea is measured". Prior to this judgement, the UK Government view was that the Habitats Directive did not apply outside UK territorial waters (12 nm from the coast). The UK Government is now implementing the Directive in the UK offshore area (waters beyond 12 nautical miles, within British Fishery Limits and the seabed within the UK Continental Shelf Designated Area) (Figure 1.5). JNCC was asked in 2000 by the UK government to provide information to enable identification of offshore SACs (Johnston et al. 2002). Since 2002, JNCC has been investigating selection of offshore SACs (and SPAs) in the seas beyond territorial waters on behalf of Defra, following a similar process to that undertaken for terrestrial and inshore SACs (and SPAs). Twenty SACs in UK offshore waters have now been formally advised to the European Commission, two of these are joint inshore/offshore sites. On 31st August 2007, the first five offshore SACs were formally advised to the European Commission, these have now been approved by the Commission and are currently Sites of Community Importance (SCI). On 20th August 2010 a further six offshore SACs were formally advised to the European Commission, these are also SCI. On 26th August 2011 the Dogger Bank was formally advised to the European Commission and is now a SCI. Croker Carbonate Slabs and Pisces Reef Complex in the Irish Sea, and Wight-Barfleur Reef in the English Channel were all submitted on 30th August 2012, and in the most recent tranche in October 2012 five sites were submitted in the Scottish offshore region. The SAC network in UK offshore waters is now substantially complete but there remains a possibility that through JNCC's continued programme of work in the offshore area further offshore SACs may be identified.


Image: Large map of UK marine administrative boundaries


Figure 1.5: The UK offshore area as defined by the Offshore Marine Conservation (Natural Habitats &c.) Regulations, 2007.