Rathlin Island SAC
As the name suggests, Rathlin Island is an island off the coast of County Antrim and is the northernmost point of Northern Ireland. It is home to around 145 people. This area has several types of protection, a Special Protection Area and a Special Area of Conservation. There is also a proposed Marine Conservation Zone. All are types of Marine Protected Area and are designed to protect different parts of this special place. This Special Area of Conservation is in place to protect the rocky habitat and reefs, sea cliffs and caves. The reefs here are one of the best examples in Northern Ireland. A number of species occur here that are rare in Northern Ireland, such as the sea-cucumber, a type of sea sponge, and red algae. The north-west part of Rathlin Island consists of a shallow rocky shelf and a deeper vertical underwater cliff. This is home to a range of sponges and soft coral. The sea caves in this site are also home to a number of sponges, anemones and are used by the grey seal as a breeding area. The sea cliffs are home to some species that are recorded as being scarce in Northern Ireland, such as the common juniper, Scots lovage and roseroot.
MPA TypeSpecial 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 date1 March 1998
Surface Area33.43 km2 (12.91 mi.2)
Perimeter62.04 km (38.55 mi.)
Sandbanks which are slightly covered by sea water all the time
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.
Annual vegetation of drift lines
Plants that last mostly only for one growing season on fine shingle shorelines that tend to shift and change.
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
Over 500,000 records on undersea habitats and species have been collected by volunteer Seasearch divers providing significant evidence for inshore ‘marine protected areas’
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