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Both SACs and SPAs contribute to a European network of protected sites called Natura 2000. Natura 200 sites are collectively referred to under UK legislation as European sites. Where a SPA, or a SAC incorporate subtidal and/or intertidal areas, they are referred to as "European marine sites" (EMS).

"Ramsar sites" are designated under the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitats (a conference of countries concerned about wetland and waterfowl conservation which was agreed in Ramsar, Iran in 1971). The broad objectives are to stem the loss and progressive encroachment on wetlands now and in the future. These are often coincident with SPA sites designated under the Birds Directive. Although RAMSAR sites are not considered part of the Natura 2000 network, they are to be treated the same way as European (marine) sites. However, they are international designations and are therefore not covered by the European Habitats and Birds Directives.

Aims of European Marine Sites The main requirements for the sites are:

  • Sites should be managed to contribute to the 'favourable conservation status' of the species.
  • steps shall be taken to avoid the deterioration or disturbance of the habitats and species.
  • activities, plans or projects that are likely to have an impact on the conservation features for which the site is designated shall be subject to assessment.
  • a programme of monitoring habitats, species and activities shall be undertaken within the site.
  • management of the site shall take account of the economic, cultural, social and recreational needs of local people.

go on to Legislation behind European marine sites
Management Schemes for European marine Sites