Last modified: 15 December 2015
Image: Steve Round
The Northern Ireland Marine Task Force (NIMTF), a coalition of ten environmental organisations including RSPB Northern Ireland, has launched a campaign to support the designation of areas of marine conservation importance.
The campaign is focused on urging the public to respond to the Department of the Environment’s public consultation on four proposed Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) located at Carlingford Lough, Waterfoot, Rathlin Island and Outer Belfast Lough.
NIMTF believe the establishment of new MCZs is vital to strengthen and protect vulnerable wildlife and marine communities such as the black guillemot, seagrass meadows and the ocean quahog, a large clam that lives buried in the sediment of Belfast Lough.
The ocean quahog is a fascinating, long-lived species which can reach more than 500 years of age. The oldest recorded living ocean quahogs in Belfast Lough will have been present for the departure of the Titanic and both World Wars.
Environment Minister, Mark H Durkan was given a marine tour of Belfast Lough on board ‘The Mona’.
Speaking afterwards he said: “Marine Conservation Zones conserve the diversity of rare, and threatened habitats and species in our waters.
“Designating Marine Conservation Zones will be an important step towards protecting and enhancing the biodiversity of our seas, helping protect important marine habitats and species. As well as protecting nationally important marine wildlife, the Zones will also protect geological features in these waters.
“I would like to thank the Northern Ireland Marine Taskforce for supporting the proposals. This is an excellent opportunity to raise awareness and appreciation for our important marine environment.”
Rebecca Hunter, Northern Ireland Marine Task Force Officer, added: “Northern Ireland is home to some of Europe’s most unique and important marine wildlife and we believe that Marine Conservation Zones provide a real opportunity to help the recovery of our valuable seas.
“In January and February we will be visiting local communities across Northern Ireland to engage with schools, community groups, businesses and political audiences on the proposed MCZs and how we believe they will help protect the natural resources of our seas for a richer future for everyone. We hope MCZs will have the support not just of nature and wildlife lovers from across Northern Ireland but from every citizen who values all that our seas provide.
“We support the designation of the new MCZs for Northern Ireland however we believe that more needs to be done to ensure an effective network of Marine Protected Areas is created. We are looking forward to hearing proposals for further MCZs which are vital for ensuring a future for our local seas. We would encourage all interested parties to support our campaign and respond to the Department’s consultation.”
For more information on NIMTF’s campaign visit www.nimtf.org or join the conversation @NIMTF #seachangeni. The Department’s consultation documents can be found at www.doeni.gov.uk/consultations.