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Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) in the marine environment

Whether looking at your local coastline or the undersea cliffs around St Kilda you will discover a range of spectacular examples of marine biodiversity in Scottish waters.  A number of our best examples of species and habitats have been selected for protection as a type of Marine Protected Area (MPA) known as marine Special Areas of Conservation (mSACs).  SACs are designated under the European Habitats Directive, which is transposed in to Scottish law through the Habitats Regulations.  SACs form part of the European network of Natura sites

Marine SACs are also known as European Marine Sites (EMS).

What is protected by marine SACs in Scotland?

The following is a list of the features ("qualifying interests") that are protected within our Scottish suite of mSACs:



Marine SACs are selected for the habitats and species listed above and assessed against criteria set out in the Habitats Directive.  The processes for selecting and designating SACs in the marine environment are the same as for SACs on land. 

Where are the marine SACs?

  • Choose how to search for Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) in Scottish waters and around Scotland's coast 
  • Find out more about offshore mSACs external site , located in the open sea beyond 12 nautical miles from our coast

How are marine SACs protected?

There is no difference in the way SACs are protected on the land or in the marine environment. However, the management arrangements for mSACS are slightly different. 

Last updated on Monday 19th January 2015 at 12:20 PM. Click here to comment on this page