Sanday SAC

Status: Designated


Site overview

This is a large, low-lying island in the north-east of the Orkney archipelago. Around the island are several reefs that in turn provide a habitat for dense forests of kelp. There are large, dense brittlestar populations here, along with horse mussels. The island is also home to the largest group of Harbour seals at any site in Scotland. They make up just over 4% of the total UK Harbour seal population. The kelp beds are important feeding areas for the seals, and the colony is linked to a very large surrounding population in the Orkney archipelago.

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 June 1999

Surface Area

109.85 km2 (42.41 mi.2)


113.80 km (70.71 mi.)

  • Common seal (Phoca vitulina)

    Mammals that feed on fish at sea but regularly haul out on to rocky shores or inter-tidal sandbanks to rest, or to give birth and to suckle their pups. Though called ‘common’ they are actually less numerous than the grey seal, which is the other species f

  • 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

  • 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?…

Over 500,000 records of undersea species and habitats have been collected by volunteer Seasearch divers

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