Protected sites best represent our natural heritage. As at April 2023, the Isle of Man has 25 Areas of Special Scientific Interest, 1 National Nature Reserve, 10 Marine Nature Reserves, 1 Area of Special Protection for Birds, 1 RAMSAR Wetland of International Importance and 5 Bird Sanctuaries. Other organisations also manage their land to maintain and enhance scarce habitats and species, such as Manx National Heritage and the Manx Wildlife Trust.
The location of protected sites is shown on the Government's web mapping application 'Island Environment'.
Areas of Special Scientific Interest (ASSIs)
Areas with a special fauna, flora, or geological or physiographical features in the context of the Isle of Man, may be designated as Areas of Special Scientific Interest. This can cover land above or within the intertidal areas but not subtidal sites. It sets up a procedure which is clearly laid out in the Wildlife Act, and by which land owners or occupiers consult the department before taking actions that could affect the interest of a site. The department then considers whether to provide consent or offer a management agreement. Most proposals result in agreed conditions covering aspects such as timing or methods. See downloadable documents for a leaflet for landowners, with advice on ASSI issues. For a landowner/occupier notice form please see the wildlife licencing page.
Sites are selected using the guidelines (see downloadable documents). There are 2 volumes: the general guidelines are in Volume 1 and the specific habitat and species criteria developed for the Isle of Man are in Volume 2. The Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture has consulted with its scientific advisors on Wildlife Act matters, the Wildlife Committee, before agreeing these criteria. As noted in the introduction to the document: 'The purpose of the ASSI system is to safeguard a series of sites which are individually of high natural heritage importance and which collectively represent the diversity of habitats, species and geological and geomorphological features on the Isle of Man. The aim of the criteria is to provide a logical and consistent basis for site selection, using recognised nature conservation principles. The criteria also enable Manx sites to be placed in a wider context, so that internationally threatened and vulnerable biodiversity, for which the Island has a shared responsibility, can be taken into account. For intertidal habitats the UK guidelines have been adopted by the Department. The guidelines can be viewed on the Joint Nature Conservation Committee website. Other documents may be posted on the right for public viewing at relevant times.
National Nature Reserves (NNRs)
The Isle of Man currently has 1 National Nature Reserve called the Ayres National Nature Reserve. This site is also an Area of Special Scientific Interest.
For more information, visit the Ayres National Nature Reserve page.
Marine Nature Reserves
Areas may be designated as Marine Nature Reserves to conserve their marine flora, fauna, or geological or physiographic features, or to provide special opportunities for the study of matters relating to these interests. Such areas can then be managed for those purposes and byelaws introduced.
For more information, visit the Marine Nature Reserves page.
Areas of Special Protection
Areas of Special Protection can be designated for birds, other animals or plants, with the landowner's consent. There is currently 1 bird site. This provides protection for new bird sanctuaries now that the Wild Birds Acts have been repealed (though previously designated suites remain in force).
The Isle of Man currently has 1 RAMSAR Wetland of International Importance at the Ballaugh Curragh. This site is also an Area of Special Scientific Interest.
For more information, visit the Ballaugh Curraghs page.
These are areas that were designated under the Wild Birds Protection Act 1932 and they remain in force.