Ythan Estuary, Sands of Forvie and Meikle Loch (extension) Special Protection Area: BRIA

Business and Regulatory Impact Assessment (BRIA) of classifying the Ythan Estuary, Sands of Forvie and Meikle Loch (extension) Special Protection Area.


Purpose and intended effect

The Scottish Government is committed to a clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse marine and coastal environment that meets the long term needs of people and nature. In order to meet this commitment our seas must be managed in a sustainable manner - balancing the competing demands on marine resources. Biological and geological diversity must be protected to ensure our future marine ecosystem is capable of providing the economic and social benefits it yields today.

The EU Wild Birds Directive (2009/147/EC as codified) requires Member States to classify as Special Protection Areas (SPAs) the most suitable territories for wild birds. Building on the work of the SPA Review Working Group and taking account of existing guidelines on the identification of SPAs (JNCC, 1999), Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) have identified 14 sites which they consider essential for marine SPA status. These include sites supporting wintering waterfowl, important areas for red throated divers, terns, European shag and foraging seabirds.

The Ythan Estuary, Sands of Forvie and Meikle Loch Special Protection Area covers a complex area in the north east of Scotland that contains the long, narrow estuary of the River Ythan, the Sands of Forvie on the east bank of the estuary; and the eutrophic Meikle Loch.

The existing Ythan Estuary, Sands of Forvie and Meikle Lochterrestrial SPA supports a breeding population of European importance of the following Annex 1 species:

  • Sandwich tern (Sterna sandvicensis)
  • Little tern (Sternula albifrons)

The extension to this SPA encompasses the foraging areas used by these terns breeding at this colony.

The linear coast immediately north of Aberdeen is intersected by three large rivers; the Dee, Don and Ythan. To the north the coast is cliff but to the south of the Sands of Forvie and the Ythan, as far as Aberdeen, it is long sandy beaches with relatively shallow water inshore (Barne et al 1996). Five to 10 kilometres (km) offshore the seabed shelves steeply, with the predominantly sandy sediments continuing out past these depths. Tidal flows are stronger than those to the north in the more enclosed Moray Firth and typical of those of open coasts of northern Britain. The seas off north–east Scotland support a broad diversity of both pelagic (mackerel, herring, sprat) and demersal fish (cod, whiting, haddock and sandeels). Many of these species spawn in the area or have inshore nursery areas for the juvenile stages.

Sandwich and little terns are summer migrants to Scotland, wintering off West Africa. They feed by plunge diving headfirst into water from flight, often hovering first, to catch individual prey in the upper surface waters. Both species feed predominantly on small fish and during the breeding season target small nutritious species, such as sandeels, to feed to their young. Sandwich terns are considerably larger than little terns and forage over distances of 10s of kilometres whereas little terns feed in very shallow waters within 10km of their colonies.



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