Solway Firth SAC

Status: Designated


Site overview

This site crosses the border between England and Scotland and is a Special Area of Conservation - a type of Marine Protected Area. This area is a part of the Solway Firth European Marine Site (EMS). The Solway is a complex estuary which is one of the least industrialised, and as a result one of the most natural, large estuaries in Europe. Tidal streams in the estuary are moderately strong and levels of wave energy can be high. This area is designated to protect certain types of habitat which are found in this area including the tidal rivers, mud flats, salt flats and salt marshes. This area also provides a migratory passage for sea lampreys and river lampreys, a type of jawless fish sometimes confused with an eel. These lampreys migrate from their spawning and nursery grounds via this estuary. 

MPA Type

Special Area of Conservation

Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) are strictly protected sites designated under European legislation. They contribute both to the UK MPA network and set up to protect habitat types and species considered to be most in need of conservation at a European level (excluding birds).

Designation date

1 October 1996

Surface Area

437.10 km2 (168.77 mi.2)


187.97 km (116.80 mi.)

  • Sea lamprey (Petromyzon marinus)

    A primitive jawless fish that looks a bit like an eel.

  • Atlantic salt meadows (Glauco-Puccinellietalia maritimae)

    Areas with specially adapted plants found in the upper reaches of saltmarshes that are not always reached by the tide. The habitat is used for grazing, but is also very important for birds.

  • Estuaries

    The downstream part of a river, where it nears the sea, which is influenced by the tide These complex habitats can include areas always submerged by the tide as well as those exposed at low tide. They can be exceptionally important feeding and breeding ar

  • Intertidal mudflats and sandflats (Mudflats and sandflats not covered by seawater at low tide)
  • Subtidal sandbanks

    Sandbanks which are slightly covered by sea water all the time

  • Glasswort and other annuals colonising mud and sand (Salicornia and other annuals colonising mud and sand)

    Specialised plants able to thrive in the lower reaches of saltmarshes where the vegetation is frequently flooded by the tide. It is important as it can help the development of more stable saltmarsh.

  • Reefs

    Areas where the bedrock, stable boulders and cobbles or structures created by animals arise from the surrounding seabed. They attract and provide a home to a huge variety of plant and animal life.

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The challenging conditions at this site make diving very challenging, but Seasearch divers did dive the site in 2017. We’ll bring you details of what was found when reports have been completed.

Learn more about Seasearch

Did you know?…

An area over 9 times the size of Wales is now in marine protected areas in the UK, but less than 1% is considered by MCS scientists to be well managed

Over half a million people have voiced their support for ‘marine protected area’ designation in the UK through our campaigns