Pembrokeshire Marine/ Sir Benfro Forol SAC

Status: Designated


Site overview

This area is home to a huge variety of sea creatures and habitats such as reefs, sea caves, grey seals and European otters. About 150 years ago Pembrokeshire supported a thriving oyster industry, however exploitation of the beds led to the population almost collapsing. Today, the Milford Haven waterway is the only known location for live oyster beds in Pembrokeshire and these beds are much reduced from historical levels. However, the area also includes one of the busiest ports in the UK, is important for fisheries, and the coast attracts a lots of visitors.

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 1997

Surface Area

1,379.96 km2 (532.80 mi.2)


579.74 km (360.23 mi.)

  • Grey seal (Halichoerus grypus)

    Among the rarest seals in the world - the UK population makes up 40% of the total global population. Grey seals spend most of their life at sea, only coming ashore to breed.

  • Sea lamprey (Petromyzon marinus)

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

  • Allis shad (Alosa alosa)

    A rare and declining fish species which is part of the herring family. It grows in coastal waters and estuaries but migrates into rivers to breed. Almost all adults die after laying and fertilising the eggs.

  • Twaite shad (Alosa fallax)

    Sometimes called a ‘May fish’ as it returns to fresh water to breed in the spring, the twaite shad is a member of the herring family.

  • Otter (Lutra lutra)

    These fish-eating mammals completely disappeared from the waterways of most of central and southern England in just 50 years, their future now looks much brighter.

  • 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)
  • Lagoons (Coastal lagoons)
  • Subtidal sandbanks

    Sandbanks which are slightly covered by sea water all the time

  • Shallow inlets and bays (Shallow inlets and bays)
  • Submerged or partially submerged sea caves

    Typically associated with reefs, caves that are either underwater all the time or welcome the sea at high tides, caves provide a habitat for a wide variety of plants and animals.

  • 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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Essentially all Seasearch diving in Pembrokeshire is within this MPA. There was exciting news about the first Welsh red blenny record from the Smalls, an offshore group of islets with a lighthouse, in 2016.

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 500,000 records on undersea habitats and species have been collected by volunteer Seasearch divers providing significant evidence for inshore ‘marine protected areas’

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