UK's marine SAC network reaches over 100 sites


After the submission during 2012 of eight offshore Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) to the European Commission, the UK now has a total of 107 SACs with marine components, covering 7.6% of the UK sea area. When combined, all 107 SACs with marine components cover an area over three times the size of Wales.


Solan Bank © JNCC

In August 2012 three offshore SACs were submitted to the European Commission. Wight-Barfleur Reef in the English Channel and Pisces Reef Complex in the Irish Sea were submitted for reef habitat, whilst Croker Carbonate Slabs in the Irish Sea was submitted for submarine structures made by leaking gases. Wight-Barfleur Reef is home to a mixture of brightly-coloured branching and encrusting sponges, sea squirts, anemones and crabs.  Pisces Reef Complex consists of several small areas of rocky reef in a deep muddy basin. The nooks and crannies in the rock provide hiding places for fish, with brightly-coloured sea squirts, lampshells, starfish and hydroids on the rock surfaces. Croker Carbonate Slabs is an extensive area of rare carbonate rock formed by methane gas leaking from under the seabed. These structures support a unique community of chemosynthetic organisms that are able to survive on the methane and hydrogen sulphide gases.  Croker Carbonate Slabs is covered with the white soft coral dead men’s fingers, plant-like hydroids, orange squat lobsters and dark-red bloody henry starfish.


In October 2012, JNCC submitted a further five SACs in the Scottish offshore region:  Anton Dohrn Seamount, East Rockall Bank, Hatton Bank, Pobie Bank Reef and Solan Bank Reef. Hatton Bank is the largest marine SAC proposed within Europe. All five Scottish sites have been identified for reef features ranging from bedrock to cold water coral reef. These areas willPobie Bank © JNCC protect unique parts of Scotland’s seabed, including the fragile cold-water coral reefs found on the seamount at Anton Dohrn, which was an active volcano back when dinosaurs still roamed the Earth. The seafloor in these areas is teeming with colourful life – pink coralline algae encrusts rocks, to which yellow sponges and the bright orange soft coral dead man’s fingers attach themselves and red sea spiders can be seen crawling around.


These eight new sites will contribute to the UK SAC network as well as the ecologically coherent network of marine protected areas being developed in the waters of Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland.


Link to further information on these sites and other Special Areas of Conservation.


Contact File


Ollie Payne

Senior MPA Adviser

Tel: +44 (0) 1733 866943


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