North Channel MPA

 

Status: Candidate Special Area of Conservation (cSAC)North Channel

 

Roughly the size of County Fermanagh, the North Channel cSAC has been identified for the protection of harbour porpoise. This site includes locations where some of the largest groups of harbour porpoise have been observed around Northern Ireland.

 

Habitats within the site consist mainly of coarse or sandy sediments, with patches of rock and mud. Water depths reach a maximum of 150m along the eastern boundary, but much of the site lies between 10m and 40m. The site covers important winter habitat for harbour porpoise and extends from the coast into offshore waters.

More detailed site information can be found on the Summary tab below.

 

 

 

North Channel boundary map.

This image will link to the MPA mapper and boundary downloads in due course

 

Legislation behind the designation: EU Habitats Directive 1992 transposed into UK law by the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 (as amended) within 12 nautical miles (nm), and the Offshore Marine Conservation (Natural Habitats &c.) Regulations 2007 (as amended) between 12nm out to 200nm or the UK Continental Shelf.

 

Protected Features:

Features Feature Type % of population Conservation Objectives

Harbour porpoise

Phocoena phocoena

        Annex II Species        

1.2% of the Celtic and Irish Seas

Management Unit

Maintain site integrity

 

Conservation Objectives
To avoid deterioration of the habitats of the harbour porpoise or significant disturbance to the harbour porpoise, thus ensuring that the integrity of the site is maintained and the site makes an appropriate contribution to maintaining Favourable Conservation Status for the UK harbour porpoise.


Site Timeline

The bullets below are a summary of the key milestones involved in the selection and designation of the North Channel cSAC.  More detail can be found within the relevant documentation listed below.

  • December 2014: site submitted as initial advice to Government
  • June 2015: Site formally recommended to UK Government as a draft SAC (dSAC)
  • January - May 2016: Formal public consultation - site becomes a possible SAC (pSAC)
  • September 2016: post consultation advice submitted to UK Government
  • January 2017: Site submitted to the European Commission - site becomes a candidate SAC (cSAC)

 


Relevant documentation

The documents referred to below and any other historical documents relating to the North Channel cSAC were produced during the selection and designation process and therefore may be out of date.  This Site Information Centre is the most up to date source of information for this site and will reflect any additional information gathered since these documents were produced.

 

Information about the SAC site selection process is available on the JNCC SAC pages.



 

Site overview
Located along the eastern coast of Northern Ireland, the North Channel cSAC has been identified as an important winter area for harbour porpoise Phocoena phocoena, supporting an estimated 1.2% of the UK Celtic and Irish Seas Management Unit (MU) population.  Although small compared to most of the harbour porpoise cSACs, this site, with an area of 1 604 km2, supports areas where large groups of up to 100 harbour porpoise have been sighted and are considered to be the best porpoise watching locations in Northern Ireland.

Habitats within the site consist mainly of coarse or sandy sediments, with patches of rock and mud. Water depths reach a maximum of 150m along the eastern boundary, but much of the site lies between 10m and 40m. 85% of the site lies in Northern Irish inshore waters (0 – 12 nm from shore), hence, both the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, Northern Ireland (DAERA), and JNCC are responsible for producing statutory advice for this site.

Survey data collated through the Joint Cetacean Protocol (JCP) were analysed to identify areas with persistently high harbour porpoise occurrence. The modelled outputs of this analysis demonstrate that the North Channel cSAC persistently contains densities of porpoises which are within the top 10% of those for the Management Unit during winter. .

Included within this site is a 2 x 8km strip, extending along the coast from Mew island in the south to Island Magee in the north. This section of the site was supported by land-based sightings data, validated and stored by the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG).

 

Site location: The boundary of this cSAC will be available to view and download via the JNCC MPA Mapper. Coordinates for this cSAC are available from the Standard Data Form (SDF) listed in the Relevant Documentation.

Site area:  This site has an area of 1,604km2.

Site depth range: The site ranges from Mean Low Water to 150m below sea level.

Charting Progress 2 Biogeographic Region: Irish Sea Region

Site boundary description
The North Channel cSAC boundary was defined based on predicted areas with high densities of harbour porpoise identified through data modelling over an 18-year period. As a general principle, site boundaries were drawn tightly around the qualifying feature. The seaward boundaries were drawn using straight lines where possible; however, a balance was needed between more-complex site shapes drawn tightly around the feature and simple square/rectangular boundaries, so that the area of ‘non-interest-feature’ within the boundary was reduced. Further boundary principles were developed due to the nature of the modelled output. The modelling approach used 5 x 5 km grids, and so the model output was “blocky”, and further boundary smoothing methods were applied to simplify the boundary, without altering the site area by more than 5%. Coastal edges were defined by the “Mean Low Water” (MLW) tide line.

The information for this site summary was adapted from documents listed in the Relevant Documentation section and incorporates any further information gathered since these documents were produced.

 

 

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