Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) cover the protection of several species within the area and are defined by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) under the EU Habitats Directive (EC, 1997). These areas are defined as “important on a European as well as Irish level” by NPWS (www1). Each SAC has a specific management plan identifying features of conservation interest. These features include both marine life and geographical structures. Within South West Cork, 12 different SACs have been defined as of April 2016:
Taking Roaringwater Bay as an example, there are three Annex II species protected here: the grey seal (Halichoerus grypus), the harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena), and the otter (Lutra lutra). Seabird species such as Fulmars, Shags and Guillemots are also under legislative protection in these areas, as well as smaller organisms like feather stars (Antedon bifila), bivalve species, and polychaete worms. The geographical features of interest in Roaringwater Bay have been listed as: large, shallow, inlets and bays, subtidal reefs, vegetated sea cliffs, dry heaths, and sea caves.