Tamar Estuaries Complex SPA

Status: Designated


Site overview

These estuaries lie on the border between Devon and Cornwall on the southern coast of England. This is a large marine inlet on the English Channel coast, made up of the rivers Tamar, Lynher and Tavy.  This site is a feeding ground for waterbirds in numbers of European importance. 

MPA Type

Special Protection Area

Special Protection Areas (SPAs) are strictly protected sites designated uner European legislation. They are established to protect rare and vulnerable birds and for regularly occurring migratory species.

Designation date

1 June 1997

Surface Area

19.45 km2 (7.51 mi.2)


113.85 km (70.74 mi.)

  • Pied avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta)

    A distinctively-patterned black and white wading bird with a long up-curved beak. 

  • Little egret (Egretta garzetta)

    A small white heron whose numbers in the UK have grown since it was first seen in 1989. It is now at home at numerous south coast sites.

  • Tidal rivers, Estuaries, Mud flats, Sand flats, Lagoons (including saltwork basins)
  • Salt marshes, Salt pastures, Salt steppes

Seasearch Logo

Volunteer divers from Seasearch is active in reef habitats towards the outer reaches of the site, and has identified a rare fanshell population near to the Hoe. It’s also been used to map seagrass beds near to Drake Island.

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

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

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