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: 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 European Marine Sites which make up the majority of our current MPA network in Wales; we currently have 11 SACs and 10 SPAs with marine interests.

RAMSAR Sites: Designated to protect wetland habitats, there are currently 4 Ramsar sites in Wales that incorporate 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.

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, supporting an abundance of wildlife.