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.


The EU Wild Birds Directive requires member states of the EU to identify SPAs for:

  • rare or vulnerable bird species (as listed in Annex I of the Directive); and
  • regularly occurring migratory bird species.

And to do so in the geographical sea and land area where the Directive applies.

The EU Wild Birds Directive was adopted in 1979 by the EU member states due to increasing concerns about declines in Europe's wild bird populations caused by pollution, loss of habitats and unsustainable exploitation. The EU Wild Birds Directive recognises that wild birds, many of which are migratory, are a shared heritage of the member states and that their conservation needs international co-operation. The creation of a network of protected sites, including SPAs, is one of several conservation measures that contribute to the protection of rare, vulnerable and migratory bird species.

Further work has been required to complete a marine UK-wide network of SPAs at sea in order to meet the needs of seabirds and waterfowl. The Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) has been working over the past decade on behalf of all the countries' Statutory Nature Conservation Bodies (SNCBs) to complete a programme of data collection and analysis to inform the provision of advice on possible sites. Natural England, Natural Resources Wales, and the Department of Environment Northern Ireland (DoENI) are considering several possible marine SPAs in English, Welsh and Northern Irish inshore waters, including extensions to existing seabird colony SPAs and entirely marine SPAs.

The network of marine SPAs in Scotland has been progressed by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) where these fall largely within 12 nautical miles from shore and by Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) where they fall largely beyond 12 nautical miles. SNH and JNCC have identified 14 sites which they consider essential for the completion of a list of marine SPAs. These include sites supporting wintering waterfowl, important areas for red throated divers, terns, European shag and foraging seabirds.

Evidence in this BRIA is drawn from the work of statutory nature conservation bodies and consultants ABPmer and eftec[1]. It brings together the science-led arguments for classification and the projected potential social and economic consequences of such action. This will inform Scottish Ministers of the possible impacts of classifying the SPA, and due to requirements of the Birds Directive this will be for informational purposes only as the decision to classify SPAs can only be on the basis of scientific evidence. The site has been identified for classification as an SPA due to the confirmed presence of biodiversity features detailed above.

This BRIA examines the socio-economic impact of classifying the Ythan Estuary site as an SPA. The assessment period covers the 20 year period from 2015 to 2034 - reflecting the time horizon within which the majority of impacts are expected to occur. As with any socio-economic assessment related to environmental classifications, the findings should be considered as estimates, and in cases where greater uncertainty exists, such as for fisheries, are deliberately presented as worst-case scenarios to build in necessary caution.

In addition a range of scenarios are presented to account for the inherent uncertainty associated with such proposals. Lower, intermediate and upper scenarios have been developed to reflect the requirements for management measures, the spatial extent of features and the extent to which OSPAR/BAP[2] features are already afforded protection. The intermediate scenario is viewed as the best estimate. The estimated impacts across the three scenarios commonly vary quite significantly.



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