To the South of the Isle of Wight there is a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) known as the South Wight Maritime SAC. The marine part of this site has been designated as the South Wight Maritime European Marine Site (SWMEMS) following the implementation of the Habitats (92/43/EEC) and Birds (79/409/EEC) Directives.

The Habitats and Birds Directives have been translated into UK legislation by The Conservation (Natural Habitats, & c) Regulations 1994, commonly known as the Habitats Regulations. The SWMEMS has a Management Group comprised of the Relevant Authorities involved in the site. Under the Habitat Regulations the Relevant Authorities are those competent authorities which have powers or functions which have, or could have, an impact on the marine area within or adjacent to a European marine site. Whilst carrying out their duties relevant authorities are required to have due regard to the requirements of the Habitats Directive and as such may review their management of the activities under their control that pose the greatest potential threat to the favourable condition of interest features in the SWMEMS.

In addition the Habitats Regulations make provisions (in Regulation 34) for the Relevant Authorities to establish a Management Scheme for the SWMEMS. The aim for the SWMEMS Management Scheme is to maintain the favourable condition of the site and its component features through the sustainable management of activities. A foundation document has been produced explaining the basis of the Management Scheme and the process that has been undertaken. The Management scheme will address the methods of establishing if any potentially damaging activities are actually causing adverse effects and how such activities may be regulated by relevant authorities so they can be accommodated in ways that are acceptable.

The Management scheme does not set out to be a static management plan but an ongoing process that aids decision making and continually evolves to take account of changing issues and legal obligations. It is hoped that recognition of any damaging practices will lead to a change for the long term sustainability of the site which will fulfil the requirements of the Habitats Regulations but also allow the area to be a usable resource for local communities and future generations. Other organisations and individuals with an interest in the SWMEMS have been involved in the management scheme process through a public open day and a workshop to establish management actions for the future. This process has resulted in an action plan which outlines the future of the management scheme and has been agreed by all the Relevant Authorities involved.

The 1992 Rio Earth Summit put biodiversity firmly on the global political agenda. Closer to home the European Communities produced the Habitats Directive (Council Directive 92/43/EEC on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora).

The main aim of the Habitats Directive is to help to conserve the diversity of habitats and species across the European Union. This it aims to deliver through the designation of Special Areas of Conservation (SACs)