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Identification of Marine Special Protection Areas (SPAs) 2016

Marine Protected Areas Seabirds


Identifying important sites for birds in the marine environment is challenging. It is difficult to collect good quality information on the ecology of birds at sea, due to the logistical and financial implications of collecting data within the vast extent of UK waters.

The document 'Identification of Marine Special Protection Areas (SPAs)' sets out how Special Protection Areas (SPAs) are selected, and how the data for SPAs are collected and analysed. It covers the following specific types of SPA:

  • Marine extensions to existing seabird breeding colony SPAs;
  • Inshore wintering waterbird aggregations;
  • Seabird aggregations;
  • Foraging areas for breeding larger terns;
  • Foraging areas for breeding little terns;
  • Foraging areas for breeding red-throated divers; and
  • European shags.

A number of additional documents were produced by JNCC between 2015 and 2016, which provide additional information on the process of identifying marine SPAs. These include:

  • Defining SPA boundaries at sea.
  • Seabird populations in the identification of marine SPAs
  • Generic maintenance extensions around seabird breeding colonies: data collection and analysis.
  • Identification of important marine areas for inshore wintering waterbirds.
  • Identification of possible marine SPAs for seabirds: The European Seabirds at Sea database, analysis and boundary delineation.
  • Tern marine SPA identification: Tracking data collection and analysis.
  • Identification of important marine areas for little terns around breeding colony SPAs.
  • Red-throated diver marine SPA identification: Data collection and analysis.
  • Shag marine SPA identification: Data collection, collation and analysis.
  • Selection of the most appropriate seabird hotspots as possible SPAs in offshore waters.
  • Principles guiding the use of evidence in the identification of possible Special Protection Areas in Scotland.
  • Overview table of SPA species.

Several background papers were produced in 2004 and are also referred to here for reference. Copies of these are available through The National Archives version of our website:

Resource type Publication

Topic category Oceans

Reference date 2016··

This material sets out how SPAs are selected, and how the data for SPAs is collected and analysed. A number of accompanying background documents are also provided.

Responsible organisation
Communications, JNCC author

Limitations on public access No limitations

Use constraints Available under the Open Government Licence 3.0

Metadata date 2020·06·01

Metadata point of contact
Communications, JNCC

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