Both the Stour and Orwell estuaries are designated Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Special Protection Areas (SPA). The area also qualifies as a Ramsar site (Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance).

Due to their location in the most easterly part of the British Isles, the Stour and Orwell estuaries are a vital part of the ‘Eastern Flyway’ for migrating wildfowl and waders. The area’s extensive mudflats, low cliffs, salt marsh and areas of vegetated shingle provide wintering habitats for important wetland bird species.

Every year, there are an estimated 50,000 overwintering birds in the estuaries, with a number of wader or wildlife species present in national or international important populations. Species include avocet, dunlin, lapwing and curlew, amongst others.

SSSI is a UK designation. SPA is a European designation, which means the area is recognised as internationally significant. In both cases, the focus is on the area as an important habitat for overwintering birds.

As the statutory authority, Harwich Haven Authority has specific responsibilities in conserving and protecting the environment within its jurisdiction.

Environmental monitoring and management are a major part of our activities.