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Loughs Agency has a responsibility to ensure that its plans, programmes and projects protect Natura 2000 sites in the Foyle and Carlingford areas. These have been selected under the EU Habitats Directive to ensure the long-term survival of our most valuable and endangered species and habitats.

Site designations include:

  • Special Area of Conservation (SAC)
  • Special Protection Area (SPA)
  • Area of Special Scientific Interest (ASSI)
  • Nature Reserve and Natural Heritage Area
  • Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).


Special Areas of Conservation

A number of rivers in the Foyle system are designated as Special Areas of Conservation. They include the River Foyle and Tributaries SAC; Owenkillew River SAC; River Finn SAC; River Roe and Tributaries SAC and, most recently, the River Faughan and Tributaries SAC.  These have been selected to protect a variety of species and habitats including the Atlantic salmon; river, brook and sea lamprey; the freshwater pearl mussel; the otter and rare vegetation such as the river water-crowfoot.

Special Protection Areas

Special Protection Areas look after the wellbeing of rare and endangered birds. The designation recognises the importance of particular sites for the breeding and over-wintering of important migratory bird populations.  There are several SPAs in Loughs Agency’s jurisdiction. They include Lough Foyle and Carlingford Lough (Ireland and Northern Ireland), and Lough Derg and Inishtrahull, both in Donegal (Ireland).  All are designated under the European Commission Directive on the Conservation of Wild Birds which is incorporated into national legislation in Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Areas of Special Scientific Interest

These natural places have been selected for protection because they represent the best of our plants, animals and geological features. Criteria for selection include assessments of the diversity, naturalness and rarity of habitats and species present.  Areas of Special Scientific Interest are designated by DAERA in Northern Ireland under the Nature Conservation and Amenity Lands (NI) Order 1985 and the Environment (NI) Order 2002.

Nature Reserves and Natural Heritage Areas

Nature Reserves showcase the best of our wildlife, habitats and geology. The public are encouraged to enjoy these natural resources and landscapes. As they do so the countryside is being managed and conserved for future generations.  Roe Estuary, Magilligan Point, Killeter Forest and Rostrevor Oakwood Nature Reserves are all located within Loughs Agency’s jurisdiction.  Meenagarranroe Bog and Lough Hill Bog – both in Donegal ­ – are Natural Heritage Areas which also lie in Loughs Agency’s jurisdiction.  NHAs are designated under Ireland’s Wildlife Act 1976 and the Wildlife (Amendment) Act 2000. Nature Reserves are designated by DAERA in Northern Ireland under the Amenity Lands Act (NI) 1965 and the Nature Conservation and Amenity Lands (NI) Order 1985.

Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Three Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty lie within Loughs Agency’s jurisdiction. They are Binevenagh AONB, Sperrin AONB and Mourne AONB. All have been selected because of their distinctive landscapes and special scenic value.  They are designated under the Amenity Lands Act (NI) 1965 and the Nature Conservation and Amenity Lands (NI) Order 1985.

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

21 April 1926 to 8 September 2022