Marine SAC Selection Process and Guidance
Marine SACs are selected on the
basis of the selection criteria contained within the Habitats
Directive Annex III, and
EC Guidance on implementation of the Natura 2000 network in the
marine environment. It takes several years for an area to
progress from being an Area of Search to being submitted to Europe
and becoming a candidate SAC/Site of Community Importance.
UK Government then have six years from the site being made a
Site of Community Importance to designate it as a SAC with
appropriate conservation measures in place. A pdf of the various
stages in the offshore SAC designation process is available
At present the network for the UK is considered largely
complete, with all sites now submitted to the European commission
or approved, except for the NW Anglesey Area of Search. More
details on the progress of the network towards completion can be
SAC Selection Methodology
JNCC and the country conservation agencies developed detailed
guidelines on the practical application of the Annex III
selection criteria on land and in coastal areas in 1997.
Since then additional guidance has been produced on the application
of Annex III selection criteria in waters away from the
coast. SACs and their boundaries are selected on a
scientific basis only and socio-economic factors cannot be taken
into account (Case
The Annex III selection criteria for habitats are:
- The degree of representativity of the natural habitat type on
- The area of the site covered by the natural habitat type in
relation to the total area covered by that natural habitat type
within the national territory.
- Degree of conservation of the structure and functions of the
natural habitat type concerned and restoration possibilities.
- Global assessment.
Boundary Delineation around SACs
SAC boundaries are drawn to be as simple in shape as possible,
whilst enclosing the minimum area of non-Annex I habitat possible.
These boundary guidelines were amended in 2008, in light of
responses received from the 2007-2008 public consultation on the
selection of the first seven offshore SACs.
Feedback from JNCC’s 2011 consultation on new offshore
pSACs resulted in the SAC Boundary
Guidelines being amended further. The guidelines now state
that the maximum water depth should be applied for calculations of
buffer margin widths, and that in the case of highly variable
depths across a site, multiple site region maximum depths may be