Background to the three SPA Consultations

There are a number of sites throughout Wales, the UK and the European Union (EU) known as Natura 2000 sites

The Habitats and Birds Directives in Wales

Some are classified as Special Protection Areas (SPAs), under the EC Wild Birds Directive, for their internationally important populations of birds.

Others are designated as Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) under the EC Habitats and Species Directive, for habitats, plants and animals.

SPAs and SACs are intended to safeguard and restore Europe’s rich variety of wildlife and habitats.

In Wales

Welsh Ministers have a duty under the Birds Directive and the Habitats and Species Directive to designate SPAs and SACs. This responsibility extends into the marine environment to 12 nautical miles.

As at January 2014 there are 20 classified SPAs and 92 SACs. Some of these overlap, either in part or completely. Further information on SPAs and SACs can be found using the Natural Resources Wales Interactive Protected Sites and Landscapes map and also from the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) website.

Changes to the bird species protected by the SPAs

The first SPAs in the UK were identified and classified in the early 1980s. They are managed specifically to protect their identified qualifying features.

2001: A review of the UK SPAs was carried out by JNCC, English Nature (now Natural England), Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and Countryside Council for Wales (now Natural Resources Wales) The publication, (Stroud et al., 2001), aimed to establish a consistent basis for identifying the UK’s terrestrial SPAs.

Most of the sites in the review were already classified as SPAs. The review recommended a number of changes to some sites, based on the best available ornithological data available at the time and in line with the 1999 UK SPA selection guidelines. In many cases the recommendations identify different species from those on the existing SPA citations. These proposed changes are part of this consultation.

Extension to breeding seabird SPAs in Wales

Some existing terrestrial SPAs in Wales include species of seabirds. At present, most of the SPAs are limited to land above the mean low water mark, with the exception of Bae Caerfyrddin/ Carmarthen Bay SPA, and Liverpool Bay/ Bae Lerpwl SPA.

JNCC research has identified areas of the sea adjacent to seabird breeding colonies that are important to seabirds for essential activities that include resting, preening and displaying, and are known as ‘loafing’ areas.

JNCC has recommended appropriate marine extensions to the boundaries of existing seabird colony SPAs. These may differ according to species. For example, extensions of 1km into the sea are recommended for SPAs supporting guillemot, razorbill and puffin, and of 2km for breeding gannet and fulmar.

JNCC also recommends that SPAs supporting Manx shearwaters should be extended seaward by at least 4km, and possibly further where site-specific information suggests that this is appropriate (based on radio-tracking evidence of loafing birds).

As a result, and endorsed by Natural Resources Wales, Welsh Ministers are proposing some modifications to three existing sites:

  • Glannau Aberdaron ac Ynys Enlli / Aberdaron Coast and Bardsey Island SPA
  • Grassholm SPA
  • Skokholm and Skomer SPA