A marine protected area (MPA) is an area of sea or ocean protected by law or agreements to conserve marine habitats and species.
It can include the seabed, subsoil, water column and sea surface, plus anything living in or supported by these areas.
The entire coastline of Northumberland is protected in some way due to its contribution towards nationally and internationally important coastal and marine ecosystems. We celebrate this spectacular environment through the following designations:
Ramsar sites are wetlands of international significance designated under the 1971 Ramsar Convention
. The intertidal areas surrounding Holy Island and the adjacent mainland are designated as the Lindisfarne Ramsar site, while the majority of the shore between the Tweed Estuary and the Tees Estuary forms the Northumbria Coast Ramsar site.
Special protection areas
Special protection areas (SPAs) are designated under the 2009 EC Birds Directive
and aim to protect internationally significant populations of wild birds and their supporting habitats. These important sites can be found inland, at the coast and out to sea. The Lindisfarne and Northumbria Coast Ramsar sites both support important groups of sea birds and waterfowl, and are therefore also designated as SPAs. Further offshore, the Farne Islands and Coquet Island are also designated SPAs due to the breeding seabird colonies they support.
Special areas of conservation
Special areas of conservation (SACs) are designated under the 1992 EC Habitats Directive
to protect habitats and species of European significance. Like SPAs, they are found on land and out to sea.
The Tweed Estuary is SAC due to the estuarine habitat and the species it supports. The Berwickshire and North Northumberland Coast SAC stretches from Alnmouth in the south, up to Fast Castle Head (Scotland) in the north.
It encompasses the intertidal areas of shore and extends seaward to about four nautical miles at the widest point. The site covers about 645 km2
, including the Farne Islands and Holy Island.
A coordinated management partnership, made up from key statutory regulators, implements a strategic management plan for this SAC, together with the Lindisfarne SPA.
Together, these two sites are known and managed as the Berwickshire and North Northumberland Coast European Marine Site. More information can be found at the dedicated website, www.xbordercurrents.co.uk
Marine conservation zones
Marine conservation zones (MCZs) are designated under the UK Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009
. Unlike the designations above, which are designed to protect rare, threatened or vulnerable habitats and species, MCZs are designed to protect marine habitats and species typical of UK marine features.
The full suite of MCZs, together with the other types of marine protected area discussed above, aim to create an ecologically coherent network of protected sites.
The first MCZs were designated in 2013, and the Aln Estuary was among them. In 2015, a stretch of intertidal and offshore rocky reef between Coquet Island and St Mary’s in North Tyneside is likely to be designated, along with additional sites offshore from the Northumberland coast.
Sites of special scientific interest
Sites of special scientific interest (SSSI) are designated under the UK Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981
to protect the best examples of UK wildlife and habitats. They are found on land down to the mean low water mark, and include many intertidal areas.
The entire coastline of Northumberland, with the exception of a small area around Lynemouth, is protected through a patchwork of multiple SSSI designations. The Ramsar sites, SPAs and SACs listed above are all overlain by SSSI designations, with the exception of the Berwickshire and North Northumberland Coast SAC, which extends below mean low water where SSSIs do not apply.
To view an interactive map of all the SSSIs on the Northumberland coast, as well as the other types of marine protected area, visit Magic Maps - http://www.magic.gov.uk