MCZ Project Northern Ireland

 

In Northern Irish waters the MCZ Project was set up to identify Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs), a new type of protection afforded to the UK marine environment through the Marine and Coastal Access Act (2009) and Part 3 of the Marine Act (Northern Ireland) (2013), specifically relating to Northern Irish inshore waters (within 12 nautical miles of the shore).

 

Rock arch in Northern Irish waters © DoE NI/National Museums NI

A little cuttlefish (Sepiola atlantica) © DoE NI/National Museums NISeagrass © DoE NI/National Museums NI

 

The Northern Irish Act received Royal Assent in 2013, and since then, the process of identifying and designating MCZs has progressed with support from JNCC.  The Guidance on selection and designation of Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) in the Northern Ireland inshore region was used to underpin the selection and designation of MCZs in Northern Irish inshore waters. The process has included a number of stakeholder workshops and extensive data collation and collection. The MCZ proposals were subject to public consultation in late 2015 to early 2016.   

 

On 12th December 2016, DAERA Marine and Fisheries Division designated four MCZs in the Northern Ireland inshore region.  The following list details the sites and their designated features:

  • 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.

 

These four MCZs join Strangford Lough MCZ, which was re-designated from a Marine Nature Reserve to an MCZ on the introduction of the Marine Act (Northern Ireland) in 2013, creating a total of five MCZs in the Northern Ireland inshore region.

 

A suite of documents have been prepared to support each MCZ designation which are available on the site specific pages of the DAERA website.  These include:

  • Designation orders
  • Site Summary documents
  • Conservation Objective and Potential Management Options documents