Marine Protected Areas in Wales

Plumose sea anemonesPlumose sea anemones - photo by Paul Naylor

Although MPAs cover over 35% of Welsh territorial waters, marine biodiversity continues to decline and damaging activities still take place within MPA boundaries.

Several different types of MPAs currently exist around the Welsh coast, which include:

European Marine Sites (EMS): Protected under European legislation, these sites include Special Protection Areas (SPA) which are protected for bird species, and Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) which are designated for other habitats and species. It is these EMS which make up the majority of our current MPA network in Wales; we currently have 11 SACs and 9 SPAs with marine interests. These are:


       SACs                    SPAs              
Menai Strait and Conwy Bay             Kenfig                         
Dee Estuary  Limestone Coast of South West Wales
Lleyn Peninsula and the Sarnau Kenfig
Carmarthen Bay and Estuaries  Limestone Coast of South West Wales
Pembrokeshire Marine  Kenfig
Cardigan Bay Limestone Coast of South West Wales
Severn Estuary Skomer and Skokholm
Anglesey Coast: Saltmarsh Grassholm
Cemlyn Bay Aberdaron Coast & Bardsey Island
Limestone Coast of South West Wales          




















In 2015, the Welsh Government is due to consult on further SACs and SPAs for harbour porpoise and migratory seabirds.

RAMSAR Sites: Designated to protect wetland habitats, there are currently 4 RAMSAR sites in Wales, including the Severn Estuary, whichincorporate coastal areas adjacent to wetlands.

SSSIs (Sites of Special Scientific Interest): Set up to protect the best examples of the UK’s plants, wildlife and geological features, these sites are mainly on land, but do include some coastal areas particularly in estuarine or intertidal areas, such as the Dee Estuary.

Although not necessarily statutory designations, the Wildlife Trusts have 28 nature reserves on the coast of Wales, which all help to protect coastal ecosystems. These sites cover a variety of habitats, from tidal estuaries and mudflats, to cliffs and islands, and supportan abundance of wildlife.