These are prime wildlife conservation areas in the country, considered to be important on a European as well as Irish level. Most Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) are in the countryside, although a few sites reach into town or city landscapes, such as Dublin Bay and Cork Harbour. Conservation management plans are available for many SACs and as additional ones are approved they will be posted.
The legal basis on which SACs are selected and designated is the EU Habitats Directive, transposed into Irish law by the European Communities (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations 2011 (S.I. No. 477 of 2011), as amended.
The Directive lists certain habitats and species that must be protected within SACs. Irish habitats include raised bogs, blanket bogs, turloughs, sand dunes, machair (flat sandy plains on the north and west coasts), heaths, lakes, rivers, woodlands, estuaries and sea inlets. The 25 Irish species which must be afforded protection include Salmon, Otter, Freshwater Pearl Mussel, Bottlenose Dolphin and Killarney Fern.
The areas chosen as SAC in Ireland cover an area of approximately 13,500 sq. km. Roughly 53% is land, the remainder being marine or large lakes. Across the EU, over 12,600 sites have been identified and proposed, covering 420,000 sq. km of land and sea, an area the size of Germany.
Click here to download SAC datasheets (Excel) that list SAC qualifying interests.
View and download Protected Sites spatial data through the NPWS Protected Sites map-viewer.