Strangford Lough was designated as a special protection area in 1997 under the European birds directive in recognition of its international importance for both breeding seabirds and wintering waterbirds (including light-bellied Brent geese). It is also a Ramsar site (wetland of international importance) and an area of special scientific interest. All suitable land and inter-tidal areas have been included within these designations, including the north shore.
A regular programme of site monitoring assesses the effectiveness of these designations. In relation to the migratory birds (breeding seabirds and wintering waterbirds), this takes the form of targeted bird surveys at the relevant time of year.
Site designations also ensure that any proposed changes or developments within the designated site are subject to appropriate assessments to ensure that they do not have an adverse impact on the features of interest, including the internationally significant numbers of Brent geese that over-winter on the lough.