Situated at the southern end of the Sound of Jura, Islay is the most southerly of the main Inner Hebridean islands. The south-east Islay Skerries marine Special Area of Conservation has been designated for its common seal Phoca vitulina colony and encompasses the offshore islands, skerries and the mainland coastline between Lagavulin Bay and Ardmore Point.

The south-east coast of Islay is remarkable for its unique topography of ridges parallel to the shore that produce some very sheltered areas extensively used by the common seals. South-east Islay is influenced by strong tides and this is reflected in dense kelp (Laminaria spp.) forests in shallow water and the barnacle, sponge and hydroid dominated communities which encrust the deeper rock. The shallow sandbanks, reefs and kelp forests that occur throughout the site are of considerable importance in maintaining a food supply for the seals.

The rocky coast, offshore islands and skerries of the SAC consistently supports approximately 600 common seals, representing about 2% of the UK population and 1% of the EU population. The site holds one of the largest discrete groups of common seals in south west Scotland and the colony is representative of the Inner Hebridean and south-west coast population. Large colonies are important in maintaining overall population size and are significant as sources of emigration to smaller or newly established groups. The south-east Islay SAC contributes to the series of SACs around the UK coast that have been selected to maintain the geographic range and status of the common seal population.

Islay is also particularly important for birds, which is reflected in the 5 Special Protection Areas that are currently designated on the island – Laggan Peninsula and Bay, Rinns of Islay, Gruinart Flats and Eilean na Muice Duibhe.

This site is not being actively managed at present but management may be considered in the future.

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