Natural England Conservation Advice for Marine Protected Areas
South Wight Maritime SAC

Natural England guidance

This site collection contains Natural England's conservation advice for this site. It fulfils Natural England’s responsibility under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 (as amended), to give advice on how to further the conservation objectives for the site, identify the activities that are capable of affecting the qualifying features and the processes which they are dependent upon.

Natural England's conservation advice for this site is made up of a number of components. You will need to consider: Additional information for consideration:

Site information

Site name: South Wight Maritime SAC
Designation type: SAC
Site identification: UK0030061
Latest designation date: 1 April 2005
Qualifying features
(click to see site specific description):

General information on the site features:
The generic information on the qualifying features is useful for understanding the qualifying features, and should be used in conjunction with the site specific information.
Designated area (ha): 19862.71
Component Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI):
Overlapping Protected Areas:

Last updated: 16th March 2018

Background information and geography

The South Wight Maritime SAC runs the full length of the south coast of the Isle of Wight, from the impressive sea stacks of the Needles in the west to Bembridge Point in the east.

South Wight Maritime was designated as a SAC in recognition of its outstanding reef marine habitats and pristine sea cave systems. This European Marine Site is a dynamic site that boasts a variety of different types of reef including chalk, limestone, sandstone, clay/mudstone, greensand bedrock and boulder reef. South Wight Maritime SAC is also the only known location of subtidal chalk caves in the UK. These sea caves are of ecological importance with many hosting algal communities which are restricted to this type of habitat.

The reef habitats support a variety of intertidal and subtidal species, including nationally scarce seaweeds such as the shepherd’s purse wart weed (Gracilaria bursa-pastoris). The exposed bedrock reefs host a diverse range of faunal turf communities comprised of bryozoans, hydroids and slow-growing sponges, together with rock-boring piddocks. Several species reach their north-eastern limit of distribution within the site, with rare fish species such as the trigger fish (Balistes carolinensisi) being present during the summer months.

The site’s geological variety continues landward with Cretaceous hard cliffs, semi-stable soft cliffs and mobile soft cliffs featuring along its length. The exposed chalk cliff tops to the west support important assemblages of nationally rare lichens, including Fulgensia fulgens. The vegetation communities within the site include a mixture of acidic and mesotrophic grasslands, with some scrub and maritime species such as thrift (Armeria maritima). These cliffs are minimally affected by sea defence works and together they form one of the longest lengths of naturally-developing soft cliffs on the UK coastline.

Site maps

Use the MAGIC website to see site maps, including habitats, species and other marine designations.

These maps are based on best available evidence, there are some caveats associated with the maps on MAGIC.

Conservation objectives

The site’s conservation objectives apply to the site and the individual species and/or assemblage of species for which the site has been classified (the "Qualifying features" listed above).

The objectives are to ensure that, subject to natural change, the integrity of the site is maintained or restored as appropriate, and that the site contributes to achieving the Favourable Conservation Status of its qualifying features, by maintaining or restoring:
  • the extent and distribution of qualifying natural habitats and habitats of the qualifying species
  • the structure and function (including typical species) of qualifying natural habitats
  • the structure and function of the habitats of the qualifying species
  • the supporting processes on which qualifying natural habitats and the habitats of qualifying species rely
  • the populations of each of the qualifying species
  • the distribution of qualifying species within the site

Qualifying features

Refer to the site information table above for the list of features within this site.

This should be read in conjunction with the accompanying supplementary advice section, which provides more detailed information to help achieve the objectives set out above, including which attributes should be maintained and which restored.

The conservation objectives apply under the Habitats Regulations, and must be considered during a Habitats Regulation Assessment, including an Appropriate Assessment.

The conservation objectives and accompanying supplementary advice provide a framework to inform the management and measures needed to conserve or restore the European site, and the prevention of deterioration and significant disturbance of its qualifying features.

Where the objectives are met, the site will be considered to show a high level of integrity, and to be contributing to achieving the aims of the Habitats Regulations.

Supplementary Advice on Conservation Objectives

See supplementary advice on conservation objectives for this site, which aim to describe the range of ecological attributes that are most likely to contribute to a site’s overall integrity.

Last updated: 16th March 2018


Advice on Operations

See the advice on operations for this site to view information on the sensitivity of features in this site to the pressures exerted by different activities.

Last updated: 13th March 2020


Feature Condition

In 2016, Natural England trialled and rolled out a new Marine Protected Area (MPA) condition assessment methodology that provides robust results and information on the condition of marine features designated within MPAs in England. With guidance from National teams and using all available evidence and condition monitoring data, Area Teams conduct these assessments following a standardised approach that assesses if the feature and sub feature conservation targets set for each MPA have been met.

To date, condition assessments have been completed for a number of features in a range of marine Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) by the National and Area Teams. Further marine habitat features in SACs and other MPAs will continue to be assessed in the future. The new method can now also be applied to complete habitat and species condition assessments for other MPAs in England, whilst still meeting the different processes in place to report on the results of condition of features in Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs). Different processes are currently in place to decide and report on the condition of non-marine habitat and species features of SACs.

The main part of the assessment process is directly undertaken and stored here on Natural England’s Designated Sites View. The details for the most recent assessments of this site can be found here.

Management measures

If you are carrying out an environmental assessment, planning an operation or assessing an operation or proposal, it is important to consult with the following organisations where applicable. To find out if any management measures, byelaws or other restrictions apply to your activity see the management measure page or you can use the following links for more information.

The Marine Management Organisation license, regulate and plan marine activities in the seas around England and Wales so that they’re carried out in a sustainable way.
Environment Agency are responsible for regulating major industry and waste, water quality and resources, fisheries, inland river, estuary and harbour navigations, conservation and ecology.
Offshore Petroleum Regulator for the Environment and Decommissioning (OPRED) regulates oil and gas, CCS and gas storage activities in the marine environment.

Further information

For further information relating to this designated site you can refer to the following resources:
Site specific information: Other information:
For further information about this site contact: Natural England enquiries Telephone: 0300 060 3900. Email: enquiries@naturalengland.org.uk


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