N. Ireland Government announces four new Marine Conservation Zones

The Northern Ireland Government’s Dept. of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs has announced:
Following a public consultation between December 2015 and March 2016, the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) Marine and Fisheries Division in Northern Ireland has designated four new Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs).

The new MCZs are intended to protect clams in Belfast Lough, the habitat of rare black guillemots on Rathlin Island, one of Ireland’s largest seagrass meadows located off the coast of Waterfoot in Co Antrim, and a community of sea pens — a type of soft coral — in Carlingford Lough.

The Department considered comments from stakeholders and undertook further survey work following the consultation, and the boundaries of Waterfoot and Outer Belfast Lough MCZs have since been amended.

The MCZs are listed below together with the features of interest.

  • Rathlin MCZ — Deep-sea bed, Black guillemot and Geological/geomorphological features indicating past change in relative sea level
  • Waterfoot MCZ — Seagrass (Zostera marina) bed on Subtidal (sublittoral) sand
  • Outer Belfast Lough MCZ — Ocean quahog (Arctica islandica) and associated habitat Subtidal (sublittoral) sand
  • Carlingford Lough MCZ — Philine aperta and Virgularia mirabilis in Subtidal (sublittoral) mud

 
Together with Strangford Lough, there are now five MCZs in the Northern Ireland inshore region. 

Strangford Lough was Northern Ireland’s only Marine Nature Reserve but it was redesignated as Northern Ireland’s first MCZ on the introduction of the Marine Act (Northern Ireland) 2013.

Rebecca Hunter, an officer with the Northern Ireland Marine Task Force, said: “We are delighted to see the value of our seas recognised and protected within these areas. Northern Ireland is home to some of Europe’s most important marine wildlife and habitats.”
 
Source: N. Ireland Dept. of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Press Release, 13th December 2016. For further details, see www.daera-ni.gov.uk/publications/marine-conservation-zones-northern-ireland-inshore-region-0


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