Biodiversity and Conservation Legislation 

Bern Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats This Convention requires “each Contracting Party to strictly control the introduction of non-native species” and was conduced in September 1979 and came into force on 1 June 1982.
Bonn Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals

The Bonn Convention aims to conserve terrestrial, marine and avian migratory species throughout their range. It was concluded under the United Nations Environment Programme and is concerned with the conservation of wildlife and habitats on a global scale. Within the EU, the requirements of the Bonn convention are delivered through the EU Habitats Directive and its transposition into legislation within each member state. The Convention entered into force in 1983.

The convention entered into force in 1983 through Decision 82/461/EEC. Appendix I of this convention lists endangered migratory species that are at risk of extinction and Appendix II lists migratory species that have an unfavourable conservation status. These appendices were amended in 2020 through Decision (EU) 2020/243. Through this Decision, several migratory species were added to the two appendices and basking shark was removed from Appendix I as the species is not at risk of extinction.

OSPAR Recommendation 2003/3 on a Network of Marine Protected Areas as amended OSPAR Recommendation 2010/2 on amending Recommendation 2003/3 on a network of Marine Protected Areas The purpose of the 2003/3 Recommendation was to establish the OSPAR Network of Marine Protected Areas and ensure that by 2010 an ecologically coherent network of well managed marine protected areas were in place.  The Recommendation entered into force on 27 June 2003.  The 2003/3 Recommendations has since been amended by the 2010/2 Recommendation. The purpose of the 2010/2 Recommendation was to amend and up-date Recommendation 2003/3, and came into effect on 24 September 2010.
OSPAR Recommendation 2010/5 on the assessment of environmental impacts on threatened and/or declining species When assessments of environmental impacts of human activities that may affect the marine environment of the OSPAR maritime area are prepared, Contracting Parties should ensure they take account of the relevant species and habitats on the OSPAR List of threatened and/or declining species and habitats (OSPAR Agreement 2008-6). The Recommendation was implemented by means of administrative action.
Ramsar Convention Ramsar is the oldest of the modern global intergovernmental environmental agreements. The treaty was negotiated through the 1960s by countries and non-governmental organizations concerned about the increasing loss and degradation of wetland habitat for migratory waterbirds. It was adopted in the city of Ramsar in 1971 and came into force in 1975.
The Convention on Biological Diversity (1992) The Convention on Biological Diversity (1992) was the first treaty to provide a legal framework for biodiversity conservation. By becoming a signatory, the UK made a commitment to implementing measures into national legislation to ensure: both the conservation of biological diversity and the sustainable use of its components. The Convention places a duty on government to ‘have regard’ to the conservation of biological diversity within their national context and requires the publication of a list of species and habitats which are of principle importance.  This Convention requires its contracting parties, as far as possible and appropriate, “to prevent the introduction of, control or eradicate those alien species which threaten ecosystems, habitats or species”. The Convention also addresses liability for damage caused by introductions where insufficient or ineffective measures have been taken to eradicate them once released. The Convention was opened for signature at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992; entering into force on 29 December 1993.
The Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and the Aichi Biodiversity Targets In 2010 the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) adopted the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011–2020, a ten-year framework to safeguard biodiversity and the benefits it provides to people. As part of the Strategic Plan, 20 targets, known as the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, were adopted. The 20 targets are covered under 5 strategic goals (the goals and targets can all be found in the link).  Governments signed up to the strategy will establish national targets in support of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets. National Biodiversity Strategies Action Plans reflect a countries intend to fulfil the objectives of the CBD and the concrete actions it intends to take.
World Heritage Convention The World Heritage Convention was adopted by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) General Conference at its 17th session in Paris on 16 November 1972. The Convention came into force in 1975. The Convention aims to promote cooperation among nations to protect heritage around the world that is of such outstanding universal value that its conservation is important for current and future generations.


For updated legislation following Brexit, please refer to the pdf document downloadable from the Home & News Page.

Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers) (Scotland) Act 2020 This Act received Royal Assent on 21 July 2020 and applies in Scotland only. It provides stricter protection and enforcement for offences against animal welfare by introducing or removing regulations in current active legislative regulations and acts.
Countryside and Rights of Way (CRoW) Act 2000 The Act of 2000, which received Royal Assent on 30 November 2000, making new provisions for public access to the countryside, to amend the law relating to public rights of way, to enable traffic regulation orders to be made for the purpose of conserving an area’s natural beauty, to make provisions with respect to the driving of mechanically propelled vehicles elsewhere than on roads, to amend the law relating to nature conservation and the protection of wildlife, to make further provision with respect to, areas of outstanding natural beauty, and for connected purposes.
Environment (Wales) Act 2016 This Act became law on the 2nd February 2016 and applies to Wales only. It includes responsibilities on various topics including the management of natural resources, climate change, collection and disposal of waste, and marine licensing are detailed by this act and mechanisms for the National Assembly of Wales are established. This Act was amended by the Environment (Wales) Act 2016 (Amendment of 2050 Emissions Target) Regulations 2021 to amend the target for emissions reductions in Wales for 2050 from 80% lower than the baseline to 100% lower than the baseline.
Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 (England and Wales) This Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 (England and Wales only), came into force on 1 Oct 2006, made provision about bodies concerned with the natural environment and rural communities; to make provision in connection with wildlife, SSSIs, National Parks and the Broads; to amend the law relating to rights of way; to make provision as to the Inland Waterways Amenity Advisory Council; to provide for flexible administrative arrangements in connection with functions relating to the environment and rural affairs and certain other functions; and for connected purposes.
Scotland’s National Marine Plan The National Marine Plan was adopted on 25 March 2015 and laid before Parliament on 27 March 2015. This Plan covers the management of both Scottish inshore waters (out to 12 nautical miles) and offshore waters (12 to 200 nautical miles). It also applies to the exercise of both reserved and devolved functions. This Plan has been prepared in accordance with the EU Directive 2014/89/EU which came into force in July 2014.
The Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1995 The 1995 Regulations (and resulting amendments) implement the EC Habitat Directive within Northern Ireland. The 2012 amendment is the latest update to The Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1995, which came into force on the 29 October 2012 and applies to Northern Ireland only.
The Conservation (Natural Habitats &c.) Regulations 1994 (as amended) The 1994 Regulations (as amended) implement the species protection requirements of the Habitat Directive in Scotland (only) on land and inshore waters (0-12 nautical miles). There have been several amendments to the regulations which apply to Scotland only. Thus the Scottish Regulations do not mirror the 2010 Regulations (The Conservation of Species and Habitats Regulation 2010), which apply to England and Wales only.
These regulations were recently amended The Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) Amendment (No. 2) (Scotland) Regulations 2019. This amendment adds a provision for Scottish ministers establishing and maintaining designated sites and sets out which existing marine licenses are not subject to review in an area which is becoming a designated site.
The Conservation (Natural Habitats, & c.) Regulations 1994 was previously amended in Scotland by:

The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 These regulations replace the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 which are revoked. This is to consolidate the numerous amendments that have been made to the Regulations. Several amendments have also been made. These Regulations are relevant to England and Wales.
The Conservation of Offshore Marine Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 These Regulations consolidate the Offshore Marine Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) Regulations 2007 with subsequent amending instruments and make minor modifications reflecting changes to related legislation.
The Environmental Damage (Prevention and Remediation) (England) Regulations 2015 These regulations apply to England only and came into force on 19 July 2015. These regulations require operators performing certain activities which could have an effect on emissions and pollution. This includes certain activities involved in energy industry installations. This was amended by The Environmental Damage (Prevention and Remediation) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2019. This amendment requires that all enforcing authorities report any environmental damage to the Secretary of state.
The Environmental Damage (Prevention and Remediation) (Wales) Regulations 2009

These regulations apply to Wales only and implement provisions to prevent environmental damage. This includes the responsibilities of operators to remediate any environmental damage caused and notify the appropriate enforcing authority. This was amended by Environmental Damage (Prevention and Remediation) (Wales) (Amendment) No. 2) Regulations 2015: This amended:

  • the definition of ‘natural habitat’ (regulation 2(1));
  • updated references to legislation under which damage to protected species and natural habitats (Schedule 2); and
  • adds that damage on a site of special scientific interest (Schedule 1), can be authorised.

In addition to this, these regulations were amended by The Rural Affairs and Environment (Miscellaneous Amendments) (Wales) Regulations 2019. From this amendment, an enforcing authority must notify the Welsh Ministers of an operator that is liable for causing environmental damage.

The Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2016 These regulations outline the environmental permits that are required for industrial and waste activities which could harm human health or the environment. They replace and revoke several previous versions of these regulations which had been amended several times.
The Environmental Regulation (Enforcement Measures) (Scotland) Order 2015 This regulation entered into force on the 12th November 2015, under the Regulatory Reform (Scotland) Act 2014 which aims to introduce various measures to improve the way legislation is developed and applied throughout Scotland. These regulations enable SEPA to impose enforcement measures in relation to certain offences listed in Schedule 4 of this regulation (e.g. harmful deposition of waste).
The Environmental Targets (Biodiversity) (England) Regulations 2023 This legislation has been made under the Environment Act 2021 and sets legally binding targets for biodiversity in England, including out to the territorial sea (12 nm from shore). These Regulation set 2030 species abundance targets and longer term abundance, species extinction and habitat targets for 2042.
The Environmental Targets (Marine Protected Areas) Regulations 2023 This legislation has been made under the Environment Act 2021 and sets legally binding targets for marine protected areas in England and Wales (inshore and offshore region). These Regulation set a target for at least 70% of protected features in MPAs to achieve favourable condition by the end of 2042, with the remainder of protected features to be in recovering condition.
The Invasive Alien Species (Enforcement and Permitting) Order 2019 These regulations apply to the UK and outline enforcements to regulate activities involving invasive species present on the list in Regulation (EU) 1143/2014 on the prevention and management of the introduction and spread of invasive alien species. This includes when involvement with invasive species is either permitted or prohibited. This will come into force on 1 October 2019.
The Invasive Alien Species (Enforcement and Permitting) Order (Northern Ireland) 2019 This order will come into force on the 1 December 2019. It applies to Northern Ireland only and outlines the restrictions on activities involving species on the list of Union concern and the consequences for disobeying these restrictions.
The Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 This piece of legislation provides the legal mechanism to help ensure clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse marine and coastal environments, managed to meet the long term needs of both nature and people, by putting in place a new system for improved management and protection of the marine and coastal environment. Amongst other powers, from 2010, the Legislation enables Scottish Ministers to designate a range of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) across Scottish territorial waters: of most relevance to the biodiversity agenda will be the Nature Conservation MPAs – for the conservation of Scotland’s most important marine biodiversity and geodiversity features. The Marine Scotland Act received Royal Assent on 10 March 2010.
The Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 (Consequential Provisions) Order 2010 This legislation extends the requirement for public authorities to make decisions in accordance with marine plans and also allows Scottish Marine Enforcement Officers to exercise powers outside the Scottish Marine Area. This Order entered into service on 31 December 2010.
The Nature Conservation Act (Scotland) 2004 An Act of the Scottish Parliament making provision in relation to the conservation of biodiversity, to make further provisions in relation to the conservation and enhancement of Scotland’s natural beauty, to amend the law relating to the protection of certain birds, animals and plants, and for connected purposes which received Royal Assent on 11 June 2004.
The Offshore Petroleum Activities (Conservation Habitats) Regulations 2001 and The Offshore Petroleum Activities (Conservation of Habitats) (Amendment) Regulations 2007 The 2001 Regulations of the same name applies the Habitats Directive and the Wild Birds Directive in relation to oil and gas plans and projects wholly or partially on the UK continental shelf and adjacent waters outside territorial waters (UKCS). Any plan or project which that would be likely to have a significant effect on a designated site must be subject to Habitats Regulatory Assessment of its implications for the site’s conservation objectives. The 2001 Regulations came into force on the 31 May 2001. The 2007 amendment to the 2001 Regulations extended the requirement for obtaining consent for carrying out geological surveys in the UKCS, this includes prior consent before testing the equipment required to undertake these surveys in relations to oil and gas activities. The 2007 Amendment entered into force on 18 February 2007.
The Protection of Badgers Act (1992) An Act to consolidate the Badgers Act 1973, the Badgers Act 1991 and the Badgers (Further Protection) Act 1991 which came into force in 1992.
The Protection of Seals (Designation of Haul-Out Sites) (Scotland) Order 2014 This Order designates areas as seal haul out sites in relation to section 117 of the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010. Harassment of seals at a seal haul out is an offence under section 117 of the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010. Guidance on what constitutes as an offence under the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 is available here. The Protection of Seals (Designation of Haul-Out Sites) (Scotland) Amendment Order 2017 designates an additional seal haul out site at the Ythan Estuary.
The Scottish Marine Regions Order 2015 Came into force on the 13th May 2015. This Order which is made under section 5 of the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010, makes provision in connection with Scottish marine regions. They are areas for which Scottish Ministers may prepare and adopt a regional marine plan.
The UK Post-2010 Biodiversity Framework Following the establishment of devolved governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in 1998, responsibility for the environment and biodiversity is primarily at the country level. The country strategies for biodiversity and the environment in each of the four countries of the UK underpin the ‘UK Post-2010 Biodiversity Framework’, published in July 2012, which supersedes The UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UKBAP) 1994. The Framework covers the period from 2011 to 2020, and was developed in response to two main drivers: the Convention on Biological Diversity’s Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020; and the EU Biodiversity Strategy.
Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 The Wildlife and Countryside Act received Royal Assent on 30 October 1981 and is supplemented by the Wildlife and Countryside (Service of Notices) Act 1985, which relates to notices served under the 1981 Act. The Act 1981 (as amended) provides the main piece of primary legislation making provision for nature conservation in the UK. A number of key amendments have been made to the 1981 Act, these are: Wildlife and Countryside (Amendment) Act 1985 and the Wildlife and Countryside (Amendment) Act 1991.
The most recent amendment to the act was The Conservation (Natural Habitats, & c.) Miscellaneous Amendments) (Scotland) Regulations 2019 . These regulations implement new provisions for the prevention and management of the introduction and spread of invasive species to adhere to EU Regulation 1143/2014.
Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act 2011 The Scottish Government introduced the Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act in 2011 to make the law on wildlife and the natural environment more efficient, effective and proportionate. The Act which came into force on 7 April, supports sustainable economic activity, particularly in the countryside, and to preserve the natural environment for the benefit of the public and many rural businesses.