The UK Marine SACs Project website was a vehicle for communicating and distributing the learning, knowledge and outputs from the UK Marine SACs Project to its wider audience. Since the project was completed in 2001, this website has been closed and all its documents and background information can now be accessed through the UKMPA Centre.

Advice provided by the statutory nature conservation agencies

The aims of the advice to relevant authorities

The network of European marine sites is an important element for achieving the objectives of the Habitats and Birds Directives.

The purpose of managment schemes for European marine sites is to ensure that the necessary conservation measures are put in place to avoid deterioration of habitats or the habitats of species, or disturbance to species listed in the Habitats and Birds Directives.

Under the terms of the Habitats Regulations, the statutory nature conservation agencies have a duty to provide to other relevant authorities advice as to the conservation objectives for a site and to the operations that may cause deterioration of habitats or the habitats of species, or disturbance to species, for which the site has been designated.

The aims of the advice to relevant authorities

Drawing from the aims of the Directive and the requirements of the Regulations, the key elements of the advice from country agencies on conservation objectives and operations will be:

  • to form the basis for developing a management scheme and for helping to determine what management measures need to be taken to ensure the ecological requirements of the site’s interest features are met;
  • to set the standard against which the condition of the site’s interest features can be compared to determine whether they are in favourable condition and whether the management measures taken on the site have been successful; and
  • to inform the scope and nature of the ‘appropriate assessment’ required in relation to plans and projects [Article 6(3) of the Directive; Regulations 20, 24, 48 and 50 (GB) and Regulations 17, 28 [2(b)], 43 (NI).

To achieve these aims in the clearest and most appropriate and consistent manner possible, all advice relating to conservation objectives will conform to the ‘UK common standards for monitoring designated sites’ (JNCC, 1997). In relation to setting conservation objectives, these standards ensure that:

"Conservation objectives will be prepared for interest features on all sites. These objectives will define what constitutes favourable condition of each feature by describing broad targets which should be met if the feature is to be judged favourable.

Each interest feature of a site will have one or more attributes that can be used to help define favourable condition. For each species these may include population size, structure, habitat requirements and distribution. Attributes of habitats may include area covered, key species, composition, structure and supporting processes.

Broad targets will be identified for those attributes that most economically define favourable condition of the interest feature. Because all features are subject to some degree of change the targets may express how much change would be accepted while still considering the feature to be in favourable condition. If a feature changes to the extent that it falls outside the thresholds expressed then this acts as a trigger for remedial action or further investigation.

In some cases relatively little may be known about the interest feature so it may be difficult to define favourable condition. In such circumstances the use of current condition will be considered as the definition of favourable condition, in the absence of any evidence that the current condition was unfavourable".

Conservation objectives for European Marine Sites

Advice on operations which may cause deterioration or disturbance