Papa Stour SAC

Status: Designated


Site overview

This site was designated to protect the reefs on hard rocks in the extreme north of Scotland as this is one of the most exposed sites in the UK. The underwater terrain is rugged, with rock walls, slopes, gullies, ledges, ridges and boulder slopes, which support a diverse range of plant and animal communities.  There are lots of sea caves here, tunnels and arches occurring in cold northerly waters.  There are large kelp forests as well as different types of soft coral, and featherstars. 

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

20.79 km2 (8.03 mi.2)


64.94 km (40.35 mi.)

  • 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.

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 170 parliamentarians from across the political spectrum signed up to our Marine Charter calling for a network of ‘marine protected areas’ in UK Seas

To the shelf limits, Scotland has 61% of UK waters, of which 23% are now in existing or new ‘marine protected areas’