Natural England Conservation Advice for Marine Protected Areas
Isles of Scilly SPA

This advice is draft. Once this advice is published as formal advice it becomes Natural England’s statutory advice and replaces the previous advice packages. In the interim, the draft advice should be used as a basis for informing management and case work as it reflects the most up-to-date evidence held by Natural England.

An extension to the Isles of Scilly SPA is currently proposed to include a marine area for various activities crucial to the life cycles of all the features (including foraging/feeding and ‘maintenance behaviours’ such as loafing and preening). European shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis and great black-backed gull Larus marinus would be added to the SPA as new qualifying features. Please note that this Conservation Advice package is for the existing site, not for the newly proposed pSPA and its features. For the most up-to-date information on the progress of the proposals, please refer to the consultation website.

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: Isles of Scilly SPA
Site name: Isles of Scilly SPA
Designation type: SPA
Site identification: UK9020288
Latest classification date: 10 August 2001
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): 402
Component Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI):
Overlapping Protected Areas:

Last updated: 13th March 2020

Background information and geography

The Isles of Scilly represent Britain’s only oceanic island archipelago of over 200 low-lying granite islands and rocks situated 45 km (28 miles) offshore from Land’s End. Wind and wave exposure around the islands can be considerable due to their offshore location, and bathymetry drops quickly from shallow waters within the islands to depths of 60-90 m further offshore. The tidal rates and range of flow around the islands are variable and seawater temperatures are affected by the up-welling of cold oceanic water that is noticeable during the summer months when water temperature is typically lower than the adjacent mainland (15-17C). In winter however, seawater temperature around the islands is higher than the mainland (10-12C). The waters surrounding the islands are fully saline (Natural England, 2018).

The isolated nature of the islands and rocks, together with their low levels of disturbance, make them particularly suitable for nesting seabirds, with the SPA supporting a breeding seabird assemblage of European importance. The site supports the fifth largest UK population of European storm petrels Hydrobates pelagicus (and the largest in England), the sixth largest population of lesser black-backed gulls Larus fuscus graellsii, the third largest population of European shags Phalacrocorax aristotelis (and the largest in England), and the largest population of great black-backed gulls Larus marinus in the UK (Natural England, 2018). The seabird assemblage includes thirteen species of seabird regularly breeding in Scilly, including Manx shearwater Puffinus puffinus, which only breeds at one other location in England (Heaney and St. Pierre, 2017).

The islands hold a number of other important national and international designations in addition to the SPA. The Isles of Scilly Complex Special Area of Conservation (SAC) was designated in 2005 to protect the archipelago's intertidal mudflats and sandflats, sandbanks, rocky reefs, shore dock Rumex rupestris and grey seals Halichoerus grypus. In 2013 the 11 Isles of Scilly Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) were designated. The MCZs complement the SAC designation by offering protection to species and habitats that are not protected by the SAC. These include specific intertidal rock and sediment habitats, spiny lobster Palinurus elephas and two species of stalked jellyfish Calvadosia campanulata and Haliclystus auricula. The long history of seabird occupancy on the archipelago was first formally recognised in the early 1980s, when 26 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) were notified protecting a range of features including heath, dune and wetland habitats, vascular plants and lichens in addition to the seabirds.

An extension to the Isles of Scilly SPA is currently proposed to include a marine area for various activities crucial to the life cycles of all the features (including foraging/feeding and ‘maintenance behaviours’ such as loafing and preening). European shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis and great black-backed gull Larus marinus would be added to the SPA as new qualifying features (Natural England, 2018). Please note that this Conservation Advice package is for the existing site, not for the newly proposed pSPA and its features. For the most up-to-date information on the progress of the proposals, please refer to the consultation website.

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 March 2020


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: 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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