Recovering Biodiversity

Northern Ireland is home to an abundance of iconic and often vulnerable marine wildlife such as harbour porpoise, puffins, horse mussel reefs, seagrass beds and many more. These species and habitats will benefit from an ecologically coherent network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in Northern Ireland which is well-managed, monitored, enforced and resourced.

Puffins on Rathlin Island, RSPBNI

Marine Protected Areas

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are an essential management tool for conserving marine resources and protecting marine wildlife. A well-managed network of MPAs will help to restore and build resilience into our marine environment, playing an important role in the recovery and sustainable management of our seas. This will have cumulative, long term benefits as the marine Natural Capital – the assets and services provided by our seas – of Northern Ireland’s environment grows.

  • Over 50% of Northern Ireland’s biodiversity is found within the sea, but many species and habitats are damaged or declining.
  • A well-managed network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) will help our seas withstand the increasing demands we place on them and provide benefits to our economy, education and health.
  • NIMTF wants to see effective management plans for all MPA sites to ensure potentially harmful activities are regulated and conservation objectives are achieved.
Current MPA’s in NI inshore region, DAERA.

The current NI MPA network: Species and Habitat Gaps

Within the Northern Ireland MPA network, there are a number of habitat and species gaps which need to be designated in order to further our progress towards an ecologically coherent network of MPAs. Check out our fact-sheets below to learn more about some of the species and habitats that need protected within our MPA network.

What’s next? The MPA Strategy Review:

The Marine Act (Northern Ireland) 2013 required DAERA (Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs) to establish a network of MPAs in the Northern Ireland inshore region that contributes to the conservation and improvement of the marine environment in the UK marine area.

You can view the current Strategy for MPA’s in the NI inshore region here.

NIMTF alongside NIFF (Northern Ireland Fishing Federation) asked DAERA to undertake a co-design approach to the 2022 review of the current MPA Strategy. This will ensure Government, eNGO’s, industry and academics are contributing equally to the review process. DAERA delivered on this ask and the co-design approach began in Summer 2022. The MPA strategy review is expected to be live for public consultation in early 2023.

The first meeting of the co-designed MPA strategy Review (Image: WWT)