Natural England Conservation Advice for Marine Protected Areas
Farne Islands SPA

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

Overarching site: Farne Islands
Site name: Farne Islands SPA
Designation type: SPA
Site identification: UK9006021
Latest classification date: 29 January 2017
Qualifying features
(click to see site specific description):

General information on the site features:
You can find generic information on the qualifying species from the following websites: The generic information on the supporting habitats for the qualifying features is useful for understanding the qualifying features, and should be used in conjunction with the site specific information.
Designated area (ha): 101.23
Moderation/boundary changes: The site was classified on 17 July 1985. On 29 January 2017 the site was amended to include guillemot (Uria aalge) and a seabird assemblage.
Component Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI):
Overlapping Protected Areas:

Last updated: 15th March 2019

Background information and geography

The Farne Islands are a group of rocky Islands stretching from between 2.4 to 7.6 kilometres offshore. The islands are rocky plateaus formed from Whin Sill rock, the total area of all the islands is 101ha consisting of 15 – 20 islands depending on tide, they are split into the Inner Farnes and the Outer Farnes. The botanical interest is limited but the islands are famous as a breeding ground for grey seal and as a seabird nesting colony.

The Farne Islands was first classified as an SPA in 1985, they were designated as an SPA for nesting Arctic (Sterna paradisaea), common (Sterna hirundo), roseate (Sterna dougallii), and Sandwich terns (Thalasseus sandvicensis), also during breeding season nesting guillemot (Uria aalge)

The SPA designation also includes the seabird assemblage which consists of kittiwake, shag, cormorant, puffin and guillemot, plus the terns described above. Eider also nest on Inner Farne although they are not present in significant numbers to constitute as part of the SPA designation (English Nature, 1983). Birds from the islands forage in the surrounding water column, and these surrounding waters are now protected through the Northumberland Marine SPA.

The Farne Islands SPA is managed by the National Trust who have permanent rangers stationed on the main island, they monitor bird activity and help manage visitors as these islands are visited regularly by tourists on boat trips. A voluntary code of conduct is in place for recreational boat users using the area with a management plan in order to manage visitors.

The Farne Island supports an internationally important assemblage of seabirds, supporting a total of 142,490 individual breeding seabirds (Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC), 2017). During the breeding season the area regularly supports the assemblage which includes kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla), shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis), cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo), Atlantic puffin (Fratercula arctica), guillemot (Uria aalge), Arctic tern (Sterna paradisaea), common tern (Sterna hirundo), roseate tern (Sterna dougallii), and Sandwich tern (Sterna sandvicensis). The seabird assemblage birds all breed on the Farne Islands and forage in the surrounding sea. The area surrounding the Farne Islands is protected by the Northumberland Marine SPA, which has been classified to protect the foraging areas of tern species and other breeding seabirds.

The Northumberland coast and surrounding sea supports important breeding colonies of seabirds and auks, protected at four existing SPAs: Farne Islands SPA, Coquet Island SPA, Lindisfarne SPA and Northumbria Coast SPA. The surrounding waters are protected by Northumberland Marine SPA, these areas are used by the seabirds and auks for foraging and maintenance activities, such as bathing and preening.

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 aims of the Wild Birds Directive, by maintaining or restoring:
  • the extent and distribution of the habitats of the qualifying features
  • the structure and function of the habitats of the qualifying features
  • the supporting processes on which the habitats of the qualifying features rely
  • the populations of each of the qualifying features
  • the distribution of qualifying features 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: 13th September 2019

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

Advice on Seasonality

See the advice on seasonality for this site, to view the months in which each mobile feature occurs in this site.

Last updated: 14th September 2018

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: