Moray Firth Special Area of Conservation (SAC)
A large part of the inner Moray Firth, west of a line from Helmsdale to Lossiemouth has been designated a Special Area of Conservation (SAC). Follow this link to view all Moray Firth SAC publications, including the latest Management Group meeting minutes and the revised Management Scheme and Action Programme.
Dolphins and Sandbanks
The Moray Firth SAC was initially proposed for designation in 1996 to help protect the resident population of bottlenose dolphins, which is considered to be rare in a European context. Because the dolphins live a long time and reproduce slowly, and because the Moray Firth population is relatively small and isolated, it is extremely vulnerable.
In 2001 ‘Sandbanks which are slightly covered by sea water at all times’ (subsequently referred to as ‘sandbanks’) were added to the designation. The sandbanks encompass a range of fine grained sediment types typically, but not exclusively, down to the 20m depth contour. Submerged sandbanks are ecologically and economically important; for example, they often support important nursery areas for fish, the animals associated with them provide a vital food source for birds, and the sandbanks can provide protection from coastal erosion.
Managing the SAC
Responsibility for managing the Moray Firth SAC is shared by the ‘relevant authorities’. These are organisations that have statutory responsibilities through licencing or consenting the various activities or developments that take place in the Firth. These Authorities are required to make sure that the well-being of the dolphins, the condition of their habitat and the condition of the sandbanks are protected when they carry out their everyday work. To facilitate effective management of the SAC the relevant authorities came together through a Management Group and this group has published a Management Scheme.
The Moray Firth Partnership provides secretariat support to the Management Group, although not a member of the group. For any further information, please do get in touch with us.
Image credit: Charlie Phillips