The UK Marine SACs Project website was a vehicle for communicating and distributing the learning, knowledge and outputs from the UK Marine SACs Project to its wider audience. Since the project was completed in 2001, this website has been closed and all its documents and background information can now be accessed through the UKMPA Centre.

Conservation objectives for European marine sites


Natural variation

Advice and discussions with relevant authorities


In line with the UK common standards for monitoring designated sites, the UK country agencies will aim to ensure that conservation objectives are:

specific relate to a particular interest feature and define the condition(s) required to satisfy the conservation objective;

measurable and reportable enabling monitoring to be undertaken to determine whether the conservation objectives are being met and for the purposes of Article 17 of the Habitats Directive;

realistic given a reasonable time-frame and application of resources;

consistent in approach the structure of conservation objectives should, as far as is possible, be the same across all European marine sites, and at sites supporting the same interest feature, use a consistent approach to the identification of similar attributes and targets to describe favourable condition; and

comprehensive the attributes and targets should cover the properties of the interest feature necessary to describe its condition as either favourable or unfavourable.

Natural variation

country agencies and relevant authorities will need to assess the effectiveness of management measures towards achievement of the conservation objectives, and to do this, they will need to be able to make judgements in the future about how the observed condition compares to the favourable condition of an interest feature (see above). This is complex because over time there are natural variations in the size of species populations and the species composition of habitats.

The scale and extent of natural variation is often difficult to precisely define favourable condition. In these cases it will be particularly important to exercise caution when defining the favourable condition. In these cases it will be particularly important to exercise caution when defining the favourable condition and perhaps more importantly when subsequently comparing the observed condition with the favourable condition. For some attributes natural variation is cyclic, for others the trend may be successional, for example the silting up of inner estuaries. These differences will be reflected in the different ways that targets are expressed for interest features.

In many cases the favourable condition of an interest feature will need to refer to the condition of the feature at the time the site was designated and monitoring undertaken relative to this status. Over time the understanding of variability should improve with a view to establishing more precise targets for all features in European marine sites. Such information will be produced as a result of surveillance and monitoring and may be augmented by targeted studies. To this end, the country agencies will draw on the best available information from all sources, including local expert knowledge.

Advice and discussions with relevant authorities

The conservation objectives for the interest feature of each site will include their associated targets (where such targets have been identified ). Discussions with relevant authorities and others on the conservation objectives will take place before finalising the advice in order to draw on the knowledge and experience of these authorities. For most European marine sites, a management scheme will be developed in wider consultation with interested parties, and conservation objectives will be part of such schemes.

The spatial extent of interest features within a site, and therefore the related conservation objectives and targets, may be mapped with reference to known landmarks or seascape features within the site boundary so that the feature can be unambiguously located. Within the context of the management scheme this could be developed into a zoned approach where activities, interest features and conservation objectives are visually demonstrated in a clear manner. Such zoning may not be applicable to all European marine sites.