PEOPLE across Northern Ireland have demonstrated their clout by helping to highlight the urgent need to protect the region’s marine life through supporting the SeaChangeNI campaign.
Over 1,300 individuals have pledged their support for the Northern Ireland Marine Task Force’s (NIMTF) campaign to ensure politicians in Stormont take urgent measures to protect what the coalition describes as the north’s “rare and unique marine life”.
In my previous life as a newspaper writer I wrote about why, as people who live on an island, we should all care about our seashores and the waters beyond.
Beneath that green/blue surface – I’m picturing the breathtaking views from the coast road up to north Antrim as I write – lies a world that provides a habitat for over 50 per cent of the north’s biodiversity, including 24 species of whale and two types of seal, as well as countless smaller species of flora and fauna.
It is also a mainstay for all kinds of people, including scientists, fishermen, hospitality and leisure industry workers etc.
Marine Conservation Zones
The Department of the Environment is proposing four new Marine Conservation Zones, which would give previously damaged habitats and wildlife the chance to recover and to gradually help replenish the wider marine environment.
An NIMTF-commissioned report has found that a functional network of marine protected sites could mean up to £54.4 million to the north’s economy – that’s a lot of money for a region that had an unemployment rate of 5.8% during October-December 2015.
The areas under consideration for this new type of protection include Carlingford Lough, Waterfoot, Rathlin Island and Outer Belfast Lough.
It should be a no-brainer that those with political power should want to safeguard such a precious resource! However, when it comes to environmental protection you cannot take anything for granted so the NIMTF has been touring the north promoting its #SeaChangeNI campaign which calls on the Executive to take measures to protect marine life by creating MCZs.
Campaign letters written by people from all walks of life have now been submitted to the DoE, with NIMTF officer Rebecca Hunter (left) admitting she feels “overwhelmed” by the public backing for the campaign.
“People clearly care passionately about protecting and promoting our marine wildlife… We look forward to hearing from the Department of the Environment shortly about the designation of these and future Marine Conservation Zones for Northern Ireland,” she says.
NIMTF is an umbrella group of 10 NGOs, including WWF, Ulster Wildlife, RSPB, Northern Ireland Environment Link, National Trust, Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, Friends of the Earth, Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful and Marine Conservation Society.