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Appropriate Assessment of Aquaculture Activities in SACs (2019-2020)

Project Outputs

As identified, the aquaculture industry is an important economic activity on all coasts of Ireland. The inshore aquaculture industry produces a variety of shellfish as well as salmon and trout. A significant proportion of the activity occurs within, or proximate to, Natura 2000 sites which are environmentally designated areas under the EU Habitats and Birds Directives.

These sites have a special status in that the features (habitats and species) for which they are designated must, in the long term, not be allowed to deteriorate. They are not closed areas or areas which aquaculture need explicitly to be prohibited. Rather the activity of any industry must be planned in order that the risk they pose to the designated environmental features can be appropriately assessed and the scale and type of activity can be regulated such that the impacts to the environment in the long term are mitigated.

Article 6 of the Habitats Directive requires that the impact of projects or plans, such as aquaculture enterprises, be appropriately assessed in relation to the feature (habitat, species) for which the site was designated, so that the likelihood of significant effects on the feature can be objectively estimated. Only when the likelihood of significance has been discounted can these activities be licenced in Natura 2000 sites. This project will investigate the interactions between proposed aquaculture activities and conservation features in a number of new SAC sites as well as a number of sites assessed previously but with additional aquaculture applications to consider. The challenge with these latter sites is to adequately consider the cumulative effects of additional aquaculture applications on the conservation features of the sites.


The project has a 2 year duration and runs between 2019 and 2020.

Project Outputs:

Outsourced services for Appropriate assessments:

To include updating AA reports and ongoing advisory services for a number of SACs (e.g., Castlemaine Harbour SPA (00343), Galway Bay Complex SAC (0268), Lower River Shannon SAC (2165), Clew Bay SAC (1482)) and preparation of full assessment reports for Streedagh Points Dunes SAC (1680) and West Connaught Coast SAC (2998). In addition, ad-hoc screening exercises for non-Natura bays will include consideration of adjacent SAC sites. 

Expected Benefit:
  1. Assessments of aquaculture activities in relation to conservation objectives of SACs;
  2. Support to aquaculture licencing decisions in relation to Natura sites.
Further Information:
Contact Francis O’Beirn, Marine Institute, Rinville, Oranmore, Co. Galway at
Project Cost - Projected:
Project Status: