Marine ecology datasets for marine developments

Dataset guidance for marine developers. The data is likely to be most useful at the scoping stage of any ecological assessment process that you need to carry out

If you need existing marine ecology data to apply for a proposed development or activity, we recommend you begin with this data.

The data is likely to be most useful at the scoping stage of any ecological assessment process that you need to carry out. It may help you to:

  • understand what ecological data is available for the geographical area relevant to your proposal
  • understand what marine habitats and species are present and the potential environment receptors and constraints to your proposed development or activity
  • plan any ecological surveys you need to undertake
  • design a monitoring programme for your proposed development or activity

How to check the relevance of the data

The relevance of this data will depend on the scale, nature and location of your proposed development or activity, as well as the pressures arising from it and the likely impact on ecological receptors.

All data have been collected over a range of timescales and as part of varied data acquisition programmes. Some of the data and datasets are from time-limited or one-off surveys or records, whilst others are components of ongoing surveillance and monitoring programmes.

The metadata and any supporting information associated with each of the datasets will help explain why and how the data was collected, when it was collected and what it covers. You should check this to help understand the relevance and usefulness of the identified datasets for your specific requirements.

Key external marine ecology datasets

The key external marine ecology datasets are:

Benthic data

Baseline data and seabed characterisation

This data is mostly point-source data from grabs, cores, dive surveys, drop-down and in-situ video and intertidal surveys. However, we also collect and use other forms of data, including acoustic mapping data such as side scan sonar and multibeam.

The point source data can include:

  • species records
  • species abundance
  • physical habitat data including particle size data for sediment samples
  • habitat descriptions
  • biotope records (derived from the species and physical habitat data for a sample point)

View point source seabed survey data within the Marine Recorder database. You can also view point source data on NBN Atlas Wales, but this may be at a coarser resolution. If sensitive data are required at a finer spatial resolution you will need to request it from the data holder.

Intertidal habitat survey map

View the GIS dataset for a complete intertidal habitat map for Wales (Lle). Some data has been removed from the dataset in accordance with our operational guidance on ecological data which limits the spatial resolution at which some species data can be released. You can request the full intertidal habitat dataset from us.

Search our library catalogue for more reports and datasets relating to the intertidal survey.

Saltmarsh data

We collect saltmarsh monitoring data to:

  • asses feature condition within Special Areas of Conservation under the requirements of the Habitats Directive
  • as part of WFD assessments for selected transitional and coastal waterbodies

Search our library catalogue for saltmarsh datasets and reports.

Other useful datasets relating to saltmarsh include:

Water Framework Directive saltmarsh monitoring

Saltmarsh extent in this data may vary. This is could be due to:

  • the purpose for which the map has been produced
  • the methods used to collect the data and create the map
  • whether the mapping includes transitional vegetation such as inundation grasslands
  • the date when the dataset for the map was collected - saltmarsh is a dynamic habitat and extent and communities are expected to change over time

Search for records of saltmarsh species using the Online Atlas of British and Irish flora and the NBN Atlas Wales.

Habitats Directive Monitoring

We collect marine habitat and species monitoring data to assess marine site and feature condition. Search our library catalogue for benthic monitoring data (including acoustic data).

Find information on monitoring sites, habitats and species, side scan sonar survey locations and metadata for this work on the MEDIN portal.

Search the Marine Recorder database for more benthic monitoring data.

Water Framework Directive Monitoring

Marine ecological assessments form part of our Water Framework Directive (WFD) monitoring programme. See maps showing WFD status assessments for waterbodies in Wales on Water Watch Wales. They can also be accessed via the Welsh Government data portal Lle.

The marine elements of our WFD monitoring programme are focused on transitional and coastal (TraC) waterbodies. Request individual datasets from any of our WFD TraC monitoring. Elements covered by our biological TraC monitoring in Wales include:

  • Benthic invertebrates
  • Macroalgae
  • Angiosperms
  • Angiosperms – saltmarsh
  • Fish
  • Phytoplankton

There is also WFD surveillance monitoring of imposex in dog whelk. Aerial photographs are available for the opportunistic algae, seagrass and saltmarsh monitoring.

We collect biological, physico-chemical, pollutants and hydro-morphology data in line with Monitoring under the Water Framework Directive guidelines. See detailed technical information about standards for WFD monitoring.

Habitats Directive SAC maps of Annex I marine habitat features

See maps of Special Areas of Conservation designated under the Habitats Directive (Lle).

These provide the indicative baseline extent of features at the time of designation and are only updated where new data of sufficient confidence is available.

The indicative SAC feature maps are not the same as the maps used for Article 17 reporting (Lle). You should use the SAC maps to assess the potential impact of your proposed development or activity on the habitat features of a SAC. To do this, please also refer to our conservation advice packages for Welsh marine SACs. The conservation advice packages also contain information on typical species associated with designated habitats.

Use the protected areas search to:

  • Find our advice for the cross border marine SACs (Dee Estuary SAC and Severn Estuary SAC)
  • Search for our core management plans and summary site maps for the other (not fully marine) SACs with Annex I saltmarsh features (Anglesey Coast: Saltmarsh SAC and Kenfig SAC)

Habitats Directive Article 17 reporting habitat feature maps

View and download Lle's marine habitat feature maps relating to Article 17 of the EU Habitats Directive. These are a snapshot of the most up-to-date spatial data for features at the time of reporting, both inside and outside of SACs. They are reviewed and updated as part of a 6-yearly reporting cycle.

View JNCC's UK-level feature reports and maps.

You should use JNCC's SAC feature maps in the first instance to assess potential impacts of proposed developments or activities on SAC features.

Sites of Special Scientific Interest

Intertidal marine habitats and species in Wales may be protected as features of Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

To find out more information on the features of individual SSSIs, use the protected areas search.

Skomer Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ)

We collect monitoring data for Skomer MCZ to provide the evidence needed to report on its condition. It also contributes to assessing the condition and conservation status of the Pembrokeshire Marine Special Area of Conservation, within which the MCZ is situated. See the latest project status report for the Skomer MCZ and other marine evidence and reports publications.

Habitats and species protected under other legislation

We collect and maintain data on marine habitats and species that are listed under Section 7 of the Environment (Wales) Act 2016 or that are designated as threatened and declining under the OSPAR Convention.

Using Lle, view interactive map layers of some of the Section 7 and OSPAR habitats and species. Individual data layers within the habitat and species datasets indicate whether the habitat or species is included in Section 7 and/or on the OSPAR list of threatened or declining habitats or species. For some of the habitats there are both polygon and point data layers.

View EMODnet's OSPAR habitat and species maps for the whole of Europe.

Find individual species and habitat records for Wales on the NBN Atlas Wales.

Invasive non-native species

Search for records of non-native species found and reported in Welsh waters on the INNS portal. This supplements the GB Non-native Species Information Portal.

Additional data sources

View and download habitat maps collated by JNCC. The maps are standardised by translating into the EUNIS habitat classification system and formatting according to the European Marine Observation and Data Network (EMODnet) Seabed Habitats Translated Habitat Data Exchange Format.

UKSeaMap 2018 is a predictive full-coverage broad-scale seabed habitat map of seabed habitats in UK waters produced combining multiple models of physical parameters. EUSeaMap 2016 is the same but for European waters.

UK full-coverage EUNIS Level 3 Seabed Habitat Map is a GIS dataset providing full-coverage subtidal habitat information for the UK. It integrates data from field surveys and broad-scale predictive habitat model (UKSeaMap).

See Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in Wales and the rest of the UK on JNCC. The names of individual sites can be identified by clicking within an MPA on the interactive map layer. Some designated site features can also be viewed by selecting the relevant layers.

Marine mammals

Atlas of Marine Mammals of Wales

The Atlas of Marine Mammals of Wales contains reports and maps of marine mammal distribution and sightings. It covers the six most common species found in Welsh waters (harbour porpoise, bottlenose dolphin, short-beaked common dolphin, Risso's dolphin, minke whale and grey seal). Search our library catalogue for the report and maps from this project.

Cetaceans

Bottlenose dolphin & harbour porpoise monitoring

See our bottlenose dolphin monitoring data from Cardigan Bay 2014 - 2016 and for Cardigan Bay and Pen Llŷn a’r Sarnau 2011 - 2013. This also includes incidental data on harbour porpoise sightings.

Other key reports are:

  • Abundance and life history parameters of bottlenose dolphin in Cardigan Bay: monitoring 2005-2007 (Pesanteet al., 2008a)
  • Connectivity of bottlenose dolphins in Wales: North Wales photo-monitoring (Pesante et al.,2008b)
  • Request further bottlenose dolphin and harbour porpoise data from us, including sightings and effort data, survey tracks and Photo ID images. Sightings data include species, number of individuals, estimates of ages and behaviour.

Risso’s dolphin

See a summary of Risso’s dolphin surveys undertaken between 1997-2016 around Ynys Enlli / Bardsey Island and the Llŷn Peninsula. You will need Whale and Dolphin Conservation’s permission to reproduce or use these data.

Surveys undertaken between 1997-2000 that contributed to this report are reported in:

  • Morgan-Jenks, M. 1997. Risso’s dolphin survey Ynys Enlli 1997: a pilot study. Friends of Cardigan Bay, 1997.
  • Morgan-Jenks, M. 1999a. Risso’s dolphin project and cetacean survey Ynys Enlli 1998. Friends of Cardigan Bay, 1999.
  • Morgan-Jenks, M. 1999b. Risso’s dolphin project and cetacean survey Ynys Enlli 1999. Friends of Cardigan Bay, 1999.
  • Morgan-Jenks, M. 2000. Risso’s dolphin project and cetacean survey Ynys Enlli 2000. Friends of Cardigan Bay, 1999.

Welsh cetacean data collected by other organisations

Cetacean data for Welsh waters are also collected and held by:

Further information and data should be requested directly from the group or organisation.

Other cetacean data

Joint Cetacean is a collaborative project led by JNCC to deliver information on distribution, abundance and population trends of cetacean species in north-west European waters.

Small cetaceans in European Atlantic waters and the North Sea (SCANS) is a series of large-scale surveys for cetaceans in European Atlantic waters, initiated in 1994.

Management units for cetaceans in UK waters (IAMMWG, 2015) sets out Management Units for the seven most common cetacean species in UK waters. Estimated abundance figures for each management unit are provided.

The Atlas of Cetacean distribution in north-west European waters is a useful summary of sightings of cetacean species in UK.

JNCC have a number of reports relating to harbour porpoise SAC selection for the UK.

The paper Assessment of risk to marine mammals from underwater marine renewable devices in Welsh waters on Marine Energy Wales provides data on cetaceans and seals recorded in selected high tidal energy areas in Wales in 2009.

A number of projects funded by the Offshore Energy Strategic Environmental Assessment programme on GOV.UK also provide useful information.

The ObSERVE survey programme, set up by the Irish Government, has collected cetacean data for the Irish Sea.

Grey seals

Photo ID data

We and our partners conduct grey seal surveys and collect photo-identification images of seals from across Wales (Lle). The images, dataset, database and the software used to aid identification are currently being archived. The data provide capture histories of individual seals yielding information on site fidelity, site connectivity and survival. The data can be supplied under licence. A summary is provided in Langley et al. (2018) EIRPHOT: A critical assessment of Wales’ grey seal (Halichoerus grypus) photo-identification database.

Grey seal surveys and pupping data

Search our library for reports on the number and distribution of grey seals in Wales. Our data feeds into the wider UK programme coordinated by the Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU). This is reviewed by the NERC Special Committee on Seals, which provides estimates for the UK seal populations and pup production in its reports.

View UK seal density and usage maps on MarineScotland.

Behavioural observations of interactions between grey seals and harbour porpoise is reported in Stringell

Request additional data for Atlantic grey seals in southern Cardigan Bay from the Wildlife Trust of south and west Wales.

North Wales

The most recent grey seal census in north Wales (between Aberystwyth and the Dee Estuary) was carried out in 2017. The report for this survey is currently in preparation.

Further datasets can be requested from:

  • Hilbre Bird Observatory (for West Hoyle Sandbank in the Dee estuary)
  • RSPB (for weekly low tide counts of grey seals at Ynys Enlli / Bardsey Island)
  • North Wales Wildlife Trust (regular low tide counts of grey seals at the Little Orme near Llandudno)

Pembrokeshire

The West Wales Grey Seal Census 1992-1994 (Baines et al., 1995) provides the key dataset for the grey seal population in West Wales.

A related project to this work analyses the diet of grey seals in West Wales (Strong, 1996).

Strong et al. (2006) provides a summary of pup counts in north Pembrokeshire as part of our SAC monitoring commissioned work.

View our reports presenting data from pup counts around Pembrokeshire, including in the Skomer Marine Conservation Zone.

The most relevant and recent Pembrokeshire pup count reports are:

Other seal data – UK and NE Atlantic

Assessment of risk to marine mammals from underwater marine renewable devices in Welsh waters: Phase 2 – Studies of Marine Mammals in Welsh High Tidal Waters (Annex 1 reports on movements and diving behaviours of juvenile grey seals in areas of high tidal energy).

Offshore Energy Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA): A number of the recent offshore energy SEA-funded projects provide additional information about seals that is relevant to these species in Welsh waters.

Designated and protected marine mammal data

Habitats Directive SAC maps and data for Annex II marine mammal features

There are three marine mammal species listed under Annex II of the EU Habitats Directive that are designated features of marine Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) or candidate SACs in Wales:

  • Bottlenose dolphin Tursiops truncatus
  • Harbour porpoise Phocoena phocoena
  • Grey seal Halichoerus grypus

Find out more information about these species, including where they are present as a feature of a SAC.

See our conservation advice packages in relation to bottlenose dolphin and grey seal.

See maps of most of the marine mammal species’ distribution in Wales.

For harbour porpoise distribution information, refer to the relevant SAC documentation and supporting reports. 

The supporting habitat of Annex II species features also need to be considered in any assessment of potential impact from a proposed development or activity. The conservation advice packages provide more information about this.

Habitats Directive Article 17 species feature maps

View UK-level marine mammal feature reports and maps relating to Article 17 Habitats Directive.

Protected marine mammal data and maps

There are 14 marine mammal species listed under Section 7 of the Environment (Wales) Act 2016. Of these, only the harbour porpoise is also listed on the OSPAR list of threatened and declining habitats and species.

The Article 17 Habitats Directive reports and maps provide the most up to date information on these species at the UK level.

Marine birds

Marine bird data

European Seabirds at Sea includes data on abundance and distribution of seabirds at a UK and north-west European level. There is also a Welsh subset of the data produced in 2010.

The Seabird Monitoring Programme (SMP) is an ongoing annual monitoring programme, established in 1986, of 25 species of seabird that regularly breed in Britain and Ireland. The data includes information on seabird colonies in Wales. SMP's annual reports documents trends in population numbers and breeding success, productivity, survival and diet of breeding seabirds.

The SMP also includes periodic breeding seabird censuses to:

  • assess seabird population health and conservation status
  • the effects of climate change on marine environments
  • inform marine planning

The current census, Seabirds Count, is being coordinated by JNCC and survey work began in 2015, with results expected in 2021.

The Wetland Bird Survey (WeBs) and Non-Estuarine Waterbird Survey (NEWS) are co-ordinated by the British Trust for Ornithology. WeBS involves regular counts of wintering, non-breeding waterbirds in coastal, wetland and intertidal areas. NEWS completes periodic counts (approximately decadal) of non-estuarine sections of coastline not covered by WeBS.

These datasets can usefully inform scoping studies for casework applications, though further site-specific data will usually be required to inform environmental assessments.

Designated and protected marine birds

Birds Directive Special Protection Areas

Some marine bird species and waterfowl are designated features of Special Protection Areas (SPAs) in Wales, as established under the Birds Directive.

View the boundaries of SPAs in Wales on Lle. You can find out individual site names by clicking on the interactive map and can download site boundary data from the website.

Find out more information on marine and coastal SPAs in Wales.

Sites of Special Scientific Interest

Marine birds in Wales may also be protected as features of Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). View SSSI boundaries for sites in Wales. You can find out individual site names by clicking on the interactive map as well as download the site boundary data.

Use the protected sites search to find out more on the protected features of individual SSSIs.

Other marine bird data

Find out more about the populations of marine birds in Wales from the report State of Birds in Wales 2018.

Fish and shellfish data

Designated and protected migratory fish and shellfish

Habitats Directive Annex II migratory fish features in marine SACs

There are four migratory fish species listed under Annex II of the EU Habitats DIrective that are designated features of marine SACs in Wales: 

Sea lamprey Petromyzon marinus and River lamprey Lampetra fluviatilis

  • Severn Estuary SAC
  • Cardigan Bay SAC
  • Carmarthen Bay & Estuaries SAC
  • Dee Estuary SAC
  • Pembrokeshire Marine SAC

Allis shad Alosa alosa

  • Carmarthen Bay & Estuaries SAC
  • Pembrokeshire Marine SAC

Twaite shad Alosa fallax

  • Severn Estuary SAC
  • Carmarthen Bay & Estuaries SAC
  • Pembrokeshire Marine SAC

Find more information about designated and protected migratory fish and shellfish on JNCC.GOV.UK.

Whilst the species is not a designated feature of many Welsh marine or estuarine SACs (apart from the Severn Estuary), individuals from river SAC populations migrate through Welsh marine waters as part of their life cycle. It is also listed on Annex V of the Directive, requiring members states to ensure that its exploitation and taking in the wild is compatible with maintaining the species in a favourable conservation status.

Find further advice for Cardign Bay, Carmarthen Bay & Estuaries and Pembrokeshire Marine SACs in conservation advice packages for Welsh marine SACs.

Use the protected areas search to find advice for the cross border marine SACs (See Estuary SAC and Severn Estuary).

The supporting habitat of Annex II species features of SACs also needs to be considered in any assessment of potential impact from a proposed development or activity. The conservation advice packages provide more information about the supporting habitats of the designated species.

Migratory fish species can also be a qualifying interest of a Ramsar site.

Species distribution data can be found at the NBN Atlas Wales or in the species distribution maps in the Article 17 Habitats Directive reports.

For additional information on diadromous fish, see our salmon and sea trout stock surveys or search our library web catalogue.

Marine fish and shellfish species that are ‘typical species’ of a Habitats Directive Annex 1 habitat are afforded protection as an integral component of a designated SAC. Such species may be protected species in their own right (such as a designated species feature of a SAC or protected under other biodiversity legislation) as well as being a ‘typical species’ of a protected habitat.

Habitats Directive Article 17 species feature maps

Reports and maps from Article 17 Habitats Directive reports can be found on the JNCC website. Many of the records for fish species of marine sites are based on records largely derived from freshwater monitoring programmes.

Marine fish and shellfish species protected under other legislation

Some fish species and a few marine shellfish species are listed under Section 7 of the Environment (Wales) Act 2016. Some of these are also on the OSPAR list of threatened and declining habitats and species.

Many of the protected marine fish and shellfish species are not routinely monitored for, although some of the shellfish species can be recorded with benthic data that are held in the Marine Recorder database. You can also find records of the protected fish and shellfish species in Wales on the NBN Atlas Wales or refer to the species distribution maps in the Article 17 Habitats Directive reports. You can also refer to fisheries monitoring conducted by ICES for commercial finfish species populations.

It may be necessary to source other data on protected fish and shellfish species that are relevant to your proposed development or activity. The information sources outlined below may be helpful for some marine fish species. If these data do not meet your specific data requirements, you may need to seek specialist advice for a particular locality or species and search other data sources such as academic and grey literature.

Find more information about typical species associated with the designated habitats in the conservation advice packages for the Welsh marine SACs:

Find advice for the five solely marine SACs wholly within Welsh waters in conservation advice packages for Welsh marine SACs.

Use the protected areas search to find advice for the cross border marine SACs (See Estuary SAC and Severn Estuary).

It may be necessary to consider other fisheries legislation that limits activities to harvest certain species. For fisheries and shellfisheries advice, please contact Welsh Government’s Marine and Fisheries Division (marineandfisheries@gov.wales).

Estuarine fish – Water Framework Directive monitoring

We monitor fish that live in transitional (estuarine) environments as a quality element that contributes to ecological status assessment for WFD reporting. This is part of our monitoring programme for transitional and coastal (TraC) waterbodies.

Transitional fish are monitored every 3 years during September and October in 7 waterbodies in Wales. Sampling is undertaken using seine and fyke nets, beam trawl and, if possible, otter trawl. For each site all fish taxa are identified and counted with total length measured for the first 50 specimens of each species. On site water column details are also measured including temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen. This methodology has been implemented since 2018. Annual data using the previous method monitoring method are available for 2007-2016.

View maps showing WFD status assessments for waterbodies in Wales.

Download WFD status assessment maps (Lle).

Request individual datasets from any of our WFD TraC monitoring data.

See the National Fish Populations Database for TraC fish counts for cross border sites (although data is only available for the Severn Estuary)

Marine fish

We do not routinely collect additional data on marine pelagic and ground fish. However there are a number of marine fish datasets that are produced by others, although these data do not provide a complete picture for marine fish in Wales and consideration should be given to the methods used, areas surveyed and timing of the surveys.

The Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) has a range of publications, as well as the Cefas Fish Data Archive Centre and the Cefas data hub.

For information on spawning and nursey grounds of selected fish species in UK waters the Cefas report by Ellis et al., (2012), available from Cefas, provides more up to date information to complement earlier work by Coull et al. (1998).

Other sources of fish data are the Database of Trawl Surveys (DATRAS) and MEDIN portal (you can search for fisheries and aquaculture datasets under ‘data theme’ in the advanced search). For a useful synthesis of the DATRAS data, see Heessen, H. J. L., Ellis, J. and Daan, N. (2015) Fish atlas of the Celtic Sea, North Sea, and Baltic Sea - Based on international research-vessel surveys.

Cockle stock assessments

We undertake, or commission, cockle stock surveys in spring and autumn in the Dee Estuary and Burry Inlet to assess cockle stocks and inform management decisions about commercial shellfish quotas and winter bird food requirements. Request cockle data from us.

Turtles

There are six species of marine turtle which are recorded from UK waters, five of which are afforded strict protection under Annex IV of the Habitats Directive:

  • Leatherback turtle Dermochelys coriacea
  • Loggerhead turtle Caretta caretta
  • Hawksbill turtle Eretmochelys imbricata
  • Kemp’s ridley turtle Lepidochelys kempii
  • Green turtle Chelonia mydas

The sixth species is the olive ridley Lepidochelys olivacea with a record of a live stranding of this species in the Menai Strait, North Wales in November 2016. This species is not listed on Annex IV of the Habitats Directive.

Only the leatherback turtle is considered to be a regular (but rare) visitor. The other five species are not considered to regularly occur in UK waters.

View and download the UK-level reports for the Article 17 Habitats Directive reporting for the five species listed above.

The leatherback turtle and loggerhead turtle are also listed under:

The TURTLE database managed by Marine Environmental Monitoring (MEM) keeps a record of all sightings and strandings of turtles in the British Isles and Republic of Ireland where you can download annual summary reports.

All marine turtle records from the database are updated annually to the NBN Atlas Wales (although bear in mind that some records will be for stranded turtles).

Accessing our data

Find out more about how to access our data.

Other data you may need

This is not a complete list of available marine ecological datasets for Wales.

Depending on your data and information requirements, you may need to:

  • look for data, surveys and reports produced and held by other organisations, companies and researchers
  • commission the collection of additional data

It is your responsibility to clarify and source the data and information you need to support your application.