Habitats and Birds Directives
The 1992 EC Habitats Directive (Council Directive 92/43/EEC on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora) represents a major contribution by the European Community towards their responsibilities under the Biodiversity Convention, which more than 150 countries signed up to at The Rio Earth Summit in 1992.
The Habitats Directive aims to maintain biodiversity by conserving important habitats and species, whilst contributing to the sustainable development of designated sites. The 1979 EC Birds Directive specifically addresses the conservation of wild bird populations and their habitats. The implementation of both the Habitats and Birds Directives is translated into UK legislation by the Conservation (Natural Habitats &c.) Regulations 1994, referred to as the Habitats Regulations.
The Argyll Marine Special Areas of Conservation are part of the Natura 2000 network. Natura 2000 is the title for the network of areas designated to conserve natural habitats and species of wildlife that are rare, endangered or vulnerable in the European Community. The term Natura 2000 comes from the Habitats Directive; it symbolises the conservation of precious natural resources for the year 2000 and beyond.
The Natura 2000 network includes two types of area:
2) Special Protection Areas (SPAs) that support significant numbers of wild birds and their habitats.
Scottish Natural Heritage were commissioned by the Scottish Executive to identify a range of Natura 2000 sites in Scotland that are good examples of natural habitats and species of wildlife that are rare, endangered or vulnerable. With regard to marine SACs, Scottish Natural Heritage identified possible marine SACs and after consultation with the owners, occupiers and users of these areas the Scottish Executive designated these sites as candidate SACs. These candidate SACs have now been proposed to the European Community for approval and designation as European Marine Sites/SACs is expected in 2004.
The Habitats Directive has number of major requirements with regards to the management of marine SACs:
The Habitats Regulations make provision for the development of a Management Plan for a marine SAC. It is the responsibility of the Argyll Marine SAC Management Forum to develop management strategies for inclusion in the management plan document. Plans are in preparation for both Loch Creran and the Firth of Lorn SACs. Management of the other Argyll Marine SACs may be considered in the future.