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Background to UK SACs

Over 600 SACs have now been designated in the UK with more than 60 of these in the marine environment. In comparison the marine sites tend to be larger than the SACs on land. In Wales much of the Welsh coast is now protected under this designation.

SACs are selected because they contain good examples of different habitats and species. The Habitats Directive lists the types of habitat and species that SACs can be selected for. The selection and designation process has taken a long time, and SACs are still being selected fill in gaps in the suite of sites. Once selected, sites are submitted by each country to the EC and if accepted on to the initial list of sites they become known as candidate SACS (cSACs). Once confirmed by Europe they can be designated as full SACs by the member country.

When the marine sites were first selected as cSACs in the mid 1990s, the UK had very little experience in managing marine conservation sites. Because of this lack of knowledge and understanding, a UK wide project called the UK Marine SACs project was set up with money from the European LIFE fund. The aim of this project was to fund 12 marine cSACs from around the UK to develop a method for managing their sites. These sites were to be used as pilot sites that other SACs could then learn from. Pen Llŷn a’r Sarnau SAC was chosen as one of these sites.

In 1997 the UK government submitted a list of cSAC sites to Europe. The European Commission responded by asking the UK government to make improvements to the list of submitted sites. This process was termed the moderation process. The government was asked to modify the sites to include additional habitats and species from the Habitats Directive, change site boundaries to better encompass the habitats and species and to identify new sites.  As part of this process, the boundary of Pen Llŷn a’r Sarnau was modified and additional habitats and species were added to the two habitats (reefs and estuaries) that the site had originally been selected for.

In December 2004 most of the sites submitted to Europe, after the process of moderation, were designated as full SACs. Pen Llŷn a’r Sarnau SAC is now a full SAC.

Exposed sand flats Shearwater

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