This pSPA lies in the Irish Sea, about 35 km southwest of
the Isle of Man and 36 km to the northwest of Anglesey. The
site is known to regularly support a population of European
importance for Manx shearwater (Puffinus puffinus), which
are likely to use the area as a foraging location during the
The Irish Sea Front pSPA is the third largest marine aggregation
of breeding Manx shearwaters identified in the UK (Kober et al,
2012). Data from the extensive European Seabirds at Sea (ESAS)
database suggest that more than 12,000 Manx Shearwater could be
present in the area. Tracking studies indicate that Manx
shearwaters from at least three different colonies around the Irish
Sea (Northern Ireland, Wales and Devon) are likely to use the Irish
Sea Front pSPA for foraging during the breeding season.
This site is located over part of a large tidal front which
forms in the spring every year. This tidal front creates an area of
very productive sea, with high concentrations of zooplankton
leading to large numbers of prey species contributing to the sites
The documents referred to below are specific
to the Irish Sea Front pSPA and form JNCC’s advice and evidence
package. The consultation is inviting
comments on the Departmental Brief,
which outlines the scientific case for the classification of the
pSPA. JNCC provide all the other documents listed below to
support the consultation process with information on the suggested
Conservation Objectives and Management Options for the site. JNCC
are not consulting on these documents but would welcome any
information to further develop the texts.
The Irish Sea Front marine proposed Special Protection Area is
being proposed by the UK Government to meet obligations set
out in the Birds Directive (2009/147/EC). The
Directive provides a framework for the conservation and management
of, and human interactions with, wild birds in Europe.
The Irish Sea Front is an area of the Irish Sea between Anglesey
and the Isle of Man; it covers an area 180 km2. The
area is proposed as a Special Protection Area for the Manx
Within the site a tidal-mixing front occurs every spring and
lasts through to late summer (Simpson and Hunter 1974). Fronts such
as this are known to aggregate high numbers of marine organisms,
making feeding profitable for species such as Shearwaters
(Vlietstra et al. 2005). This front contains the highest density of
zooplankton within the western Irish Sea (Scrope-Howe and Jones
1985) and high numbers of herring are thought to aggregate in this
area in response to the thermal and salinity gradients (Schneider
Bathymetry changes rapidly within the site and small ‘trenches’
in the seabed stretch from the southwest to the northeast. Water
depths range between 45m at the eastern limit of the site down to
80m at the southern limit. The combined effect of currents and
waves creates a moderate-energy seabed environment, comprised of
either coarse sediments or sand and muddy sand (McBreen et al.
The site was identified as a hotspot of seabirds based on data
from the European Seabirds At Sea database (ESAS). The analysis of
ESAS data estimated a modelled population of over 12,000 Manx
shearwaters within the Irish Sea Front pSPA during the breeding
season. Manx Shearwaters have a foraging range of 330 km from
their colonies (Thaxter et al. 2012), using this range over 394,000
breeding pairs (from 18 colonies) could potentially travel to this
pSPA to forage. This highlights the potential significance of the
pSPA as a foraging area for the Manx shearwater breeding population
across the Irish Sea region.
More details of these studies can be found in the Evidence
Site boundary description: The boundary of the
Irish Sea Front pSPA is based on the extent of the important
aggregation of Manx shearwaters identified through analysis of
available data. The boundary is drawn around gridded density data
and is completely offshore with no landmass within its
If you want to know more about the methods used to identify the
Irish Sea Front pSPA, please look at our web page on Marine
SPA Identification, which will provide some background on
the different strands of work JNCC used to identify marine SPAs, or
on the web page on
ESAS methods, which will provide more details on the data and
methods used for this work.
MCBREEN,F., ASKEW,N., CAMERON,A., CONNOR,D., ELLWOOD,H., &
CARTER,A. 2011. UKSeaMap 2010: Predictive mapping of seabed
habitats in UK waters. JNCC Report No. 446.
SCHNEIDER,D.C. 1990. Seabirds and fronts: a brief overview.
Polar Research 8: 17-21.
SCROPE-HOWE,S. & JONES,D.A. 1985. Biological studies in the
vicinity of a shallow-sea tidal mixing front. V. Composition,
abundance and distribution of zooplankton in the western Irish Sea,
April 1980 to November 1981. Philosophical Transactions of the
Royal Society of London series B 310: 501-519.
SIMPSON,J.H. & HUNTER,J.R. 1974. Fronts in the Irish Sea.
Nature 250: 404-406.
THAXTER,C.B., LASCELLES,B., SUGAR,K., COOK,A.S.C.P., ROOS,S.,
BOLTON,M., LANGSTON,R.H.W., & BURTON,N.H.K. 2012. Seabird
foraging ranges as a preliminary tool for identifying candidate
Marine Protected Areas. Biological Conservation 156: 53-61.
VLIETSTRA,L.S., COYLE,K.O., KACHEL,N.B., & HUNT,G.L. 2005.
Tidal front affects the size of prey used by a top marine predator,
the short-tailed shearwater (Puffinus tenuirostris). Fisheries
Oceanography 14: 196-211.
Site specific data
The full overview of the data used to support site identification
along with information on qualifying species is available in the
Irish Sea Front pSPA Departmental
Data for the identification of this pSPA have been collected by
boat surveys for the ESAS database. Data from these surveys
provide direct evidence confirming the presence of the protected
features within this area. Evidence from further boat surveys
support the findings of the ESAS analysis and provide an
independent analysis on more recent data that indicates the bird
populations recorded for the Irish Sea Front pSPA in the ESAS
database are likely to be present in more recent
years. Tracking studies indicate that breeding Manx
shearwaters from at least three different colonies around the Irish
Sea are likely to use the Irish Sea Front pSPA to forage and
highlight the potential significance of the area. Information from
the seabird colony counts is used to supplement ESAS data to
provide evidence of regular occurrence of species at colonies which
are most likely to provide birds that forage in the Irish Sea Front
European Seabirds at Sea database
The European Seabirds at Sea (ESAS) database is a collation of
surveys of seabirds at sea in northwest European waters. Further
information on ESAS and the analytical methods is summarised in
marine SPAs for seabirds.
The analysis of 25 years of ESAS data estimated a modelled
population of 12,039 Manx shearwaters (based on spatial
interpolation, whilst a precise figure is quoted it should only be
considered an indication of the population) using the Irish Sea
Front pSPA during the breeding season. This figure is equivalent to
more than 1% of the biogeographic population (Mitchell et al.
2004), therefore meeting the threshold under the UK SPA selection
guidance. However this population value was only recorded in 3 out
of 5 years, so the criterion of ‘regularity’ set in the selection
guidelines was not met. The area was therefore assessed under Stage
1.4 of the UK SPA selection guidelines. In the Stage 2
assessment of all possible SPAs the Irish Sea Front was selected as
one of the most suitable areas for classification, further details
on this can be found in the Application
of Stage 2 document.
Centrica Energy 2012
Data analysis from Centrica Energy boat surveys (Centrica, 2012),
carried out in 2010-2011, also supports the findings within the
ESAS data that Manx Shearwaters are present in high densities
within the Irish Sea Front pSPA. This independent analysis confirms
that the birds continue to be present in more recent years.
Two colonies of Manx Shearwater (Copeland, Northern Ireland &
Skomer, Wales) have been studied using GPS tracking devices to
determine areas the birds visit during the breeding season. During
the incubation period, the modelled foraging distributions of
individuals from both colonies overlap with the Irish Sea Front
pSPA (Dean et al. 2012). Another GPS study of a colony on the
island of Lundy in 2009 and 2010 also found birds visiting the
Irish Sea Front pSPA (Dean et al, 2010).
Census data available from 1969-70, 1985-88 and 1998-2002 for Manx
shearwaters from 3 colonies (Skomer and Skokholm SPA, the Lundy
colony and the Copeland colony) shows the birds using the Irish Sea
European Seabirds at Sea (ESAS) database
CENTRICA ENERGY 2012. Irish Sea Zone: Zonal Appraisal and
Planning (ZAP) Report.
DEAN,B., FREEMAN,R., KIRK,H., & GUILFORD,T. 2010. Tracking
the movements of Lundy's shearwaters. Annual Report of
the Lundy Field Society No. 60, part 20.
DEAN,B., FREEMAN,R., KIRK,K., LEONARD,K., PHILLIPS,R.A.,
PERRINS,C.M., & GUILFORD,T. 2012. Behavioural mapping of a
pelagic seabird: combining multiple sensors and a hidden Markov
model reveals the distribution of at-sea behaviour. Journal of the
Royal Society Interface 10.
MITCHELL,P.I., NEWTON,S.F., RATCLIFFE,N., & DUNN,T.E. 2004.
Seabird populations of Britain and Ireland. Results of the Seabird
2000 census (1998 - 2002). Christopher Helm, London, UK.
The Conservation Objectives set out what needs to be achieved
for the site to make the appropriate contribution to the
conservation status of the features for which the site is
designated and thus deliver the aims of the Birds Directive.
The draft conservation objectives for the protected features of
the Irish Sea Front pSPA have been set based on our understanding
of what is important with regards to defining condition of the
protected feature at the time of writing. Further information on
conservation objectives is provided in the Irish Sea Front
objectives and advice on operations document.
To avoid significant deterioration of the habitats of
the qualifying species or significant disturbance to the qualifying
species, subject to natural change, thus ensuring that the
integrity of the site is maintained in the long term and makes an
appropriate contribution to achieving the aims of the Birds
Directive for the qualifying species.
This contribution would be achieved through delivering the
following objectives for the sites qualifying feature:
a) Avoid significant mortality, injury and disturbance of
the qualifying feature, so that the distribution of the species and
ability to use the site are maintained in the long-term;
b) Maintain the habitats and food resources of the qualifying
feature in favourable condition.
c) Ensure access to the site from linked breeding colonies.
Further supplementary advice on the draft
conservation objectives is provided in the Conservation
objectives and advice on operations document.
Conservation Objectives are the starting point
from which any management actions and monitoring programmes may be
developed and should be considered when completing a Habitats
Regulations Appraisal (HRA) for a proposed plan or project in
or near this site.
Advice on operations
In line with Regulation (18) of the Offshore Marine Conservation
(Natural Habitats, & c.) Regulations 2007 (as amended), the
on operations identifies those operations (human activities)
that may cause damage or deterioration to the qualifying species,
or their supporting habitats, for which the Irish Sea
Front pSPA has been classified. This information will be
useful if you are developing, proposing or assessing an activity,
plan or project that might affect the site.
The greatest direct threats to Manx shearwater from
human activities are likely to be energy
production and extraction of living resources
(fishing) activities (based on best scientific evidence at
the time of writing). However, all may be sensitive to some
pressures exerted by the following types of activity;
- renewable energy developments: wind, wave and
- marine hydrocarbon energy developments,
- fishing activities
- disturbance from activities such as shipping and
- military activities
- possibly industrial and agricultural liquid discharges
and to waste disposal from munitions, but little is known and this
is not assessed due to lack of evidence.
These activities do not necessarily occur in or near the site at
present however they are important to bear in mind to avoid
potentially damaging activities from occurring within the pSPA in
Any activity that can cause a pressure or pressures to which the
feature may be sensitive could present a risk to the feature of not
achieving the conservation objective and we advise competent
authorities should manage these in order to reduce or remove the
overall risk to the proposed site’s qualifying features.
Further information on activities than can present a risk to
the achievement of the site’s conservation objectives is available
in the advice
Our scientific understanding of the ecology of the site, its
integrity and its qualifying features and how activities can affect
them may change over time. JNCC’s conservation advice will be kept
under review and will be periodically updated to reflect this.
Management actions seek to avoid any adverse effects on the
listed features from those pressures associated with human
activities. All activities (on or off-site) should be managed
in such a way as to minimise disturbance and mortality of the
proposed bird features themselves or the habitat and food resource
on which they rely, to avoid the risk of impacting the local
population level to ensure the site’s conservation objectives are
achieved (Tillin et al, 2010).
JNCC has developed a management
options paper to support discussions with stakeholders
about the management of activities within this pSPA. This paper
considers a range of activities and developments taking place
within the pSPA at the point of writing, and focuses on where we
consider there could be a risk of the protected features not
achieving their conservation objectives.
TILLIN,H.M., HULL,S.C.,& TYLER-WALTERS,H. 2010. Development of
a Sensitivity Matrix (pressures-MCZ/MPA features). Report to the
Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs from ABPMer,
Southampton and the Marine Life Information Network (MarLIN)
Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the UK. Defra Contract
No. MB0102 Task 3A, Report No. 22.a