10th June 2021

UK Government sets out marine and HPMA commitments for English seas 

The UK has launched plans to increase protections for England’s waters through a pilot scheme to designate marine sites in England as “Highly Protected Marine Areas”. The selected sites would see a ban on all activities that could have a damaging effect on wildlife or marine habitats.

This follows the independent Benyon Review, which recommended that Highly Protected Marine Areas would have an important role in helping the marine ecosystem recover. The review was commissioned in 2019 to look at how these areas could be introduced and the Government has today published its response to the review. As well as helping drive marine recovery, the review also highlighted other potential benefits of the sites, including increased tourism.

The sites to be piloted could be in or outside of existing Marine Protected Areas where they would benefit from a substantially higher level of protection. They will be identified by Natural England and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee with input from stakeholders with a formal consultation set to launch next year.

Read DEFRA response to the Benyon Review (2020)

8th February 2020

BBC Newsline 

7th February 2020

Environmental organisations unite in objection to gas storage project that could significantly impact wildlife and protected habitats

The health of the marine environment, its protected habitats and species found off Islandmagee in County Antrim are under considerable threat if a marine licence application for a gas storage project is granted by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA).

In order to survive and thrive, the species found here rely on a healthy and clean marine environment. The development would see significant underwater construction and associated noise disturbance, the discharge of brine waste product and the permanent loss of seafloor habitat – affecting harbour porpoises, seals, puffins, guillemots, terns and reefs. 

The Northern Ireland Marine Task Force – a coalition of environmental NGOs, including RSPB NI, Ulster Wildlife, National Trust and Friends of the Earth – is united in objecting to the granting of a marine licence to applicants Islandmagee Energy Ltd due to the detrimental effects it will have on such a highly protected area. The task force also considers that much of the justification for the project is considerably outdated. 

Ellen MacMahon from the Northern Ireland Marine Task Force said:

“We are in the midst of a climate and biodiversity crisis. The NI Assembly recently declared a climate emergency, and as a result we recommend caution in the approval of future gas infrastructure projects. The Northern Ireland Marine Plan, the Environment and Energy Strategies are all either under consultation or remain to be implemented, therefore a decision on this project must be made in respect of these crucial policies.“

The at-risk coastline and surrounding waters have multiple designations as an internationally important conservation area, notably the North Channel Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and the proposed East Coast Special Protection Area (pSPA) and functionally linked to the adjoined Larne Lough SPA, Ramsar and the Area of Special Scientific Interest (ASSI), Portmuck ASSI, the Gobbins ASSI and the Maidens SAC. 

Dr Kenneth Bodles, Marine Policy Officer at RSPB NI added:

“We are concerned that the activities proposed by this development pose a threat to this highly protected area. We do not think it is acceptable to ignore the needs of nature and grant permission for a project that has not fully considered the impacts of the brine waste product and noise on the foraging ground that the seabirds and other wildlife depend upon. The evidence provided by the applicant is not sufficient to rule out impacts on important seabirds such as puffins, Sandwich terns and the last remaining breeding roseate terns in Northern Ireland.”

Rebecca Hunter, Living Seas Manager at Ulster Wildlife said:

“The waters around Islandmagee have been protected as they are one of the best areas in the UK for harbour porpoise. We are seriously concerned about the potential for this project to cause hearing loss to harbour porpoise and reduce feeding opportunities within the protected area. Porpoises need to forage nearly continuously throughout the day and night, therefore, the drilling noise and loss of habitat associated with this project are likely to have severe consequences for local populations.”

18th September 2019

DAERA have launched a public discussion document on ‘an Environment Strategy for Northern Ireland’. To view the document and make a submission to the consultation click here.


31st June 2019

DEFRA have announced 41 new Marine Conservation Zones (MCZ) in UK waters. The new protected areas include two new MCZs in the Northern Ireland offshore region – South Rigg and Queenie Corner. While the expansion of the UK MCZ network is welcome, effective management of all our protected sites is crucial to their success. For more information on the 41 designations click here.

Marine Protected Areas
Marine Protected Areas in the UK – Source: JNCC MPA mapper

1st April 2019

The North Channel Special Area of Conservation (SAC) has been formally designated as of Febuary 2019. The SAC has been designated for the protection of harbour porpoise.

More information can be found on the JNCC website.

North Channel SAC

(Image Source: JNCC)

21st November 2018

Presentations from the 2018 Environment Week – Natural Capital Conference

Click the title slides below to view the presentations from the 2018 Environment Week – Natural Capital Conference.

Hull Uni
Devon Marine Pioneer

6th November 2018

NIMTF ‘Exploring a Blue Brexit’

Click the link below to view our recent talk at Queens University, Belfast on ‘Exploring a Blue Brexit’.


26th October 2018

The UK Fisheries Bill: how will Northern Ireland’s waters be managed?

Today at Westminster a new Fisheries Bill was published. The Northern Ireland Marine Task Force and Nature Matters NI, which represent more than 100,000 members, welcome the introduction of the new legislation by the UK Government.

With Brexit less than 6 months away, the Bill sets out a potential pathway for sustainable fishing in the UK. While the objectives on the face of the bill are strong, the mechanisms to make it happen set out in the bill are only currently applicable to England.

Commenting on the content of the new fisheries legislation, Dr Jade Berman, Living Seas Manager said:

‘We welcome the strong principles in the new bill such as the sustainability and precautionary objectives, however without a functioning executive, it remains unclear how these will apply to Northern Ireland in the future.’

The last substantial review of Northern Ireland Fisheries legislation was in 1966, when sustainable practices were not seen as core to the future of the industry. This legislation needs to be brought up to date and into the future, building on our shared knowledge.

The new bill creates the potential for the UK, including Northern Ireland, to become world leaders in sustainable fishing and preserving the long–term health of our marine environment. We welcome mechanisms in the bill that commit to working with devolved administrations to create a more successful and sustainable fishing sector.

Further commenting on behalf of the coalition, Dr Kenneth Bodles, RSPB said:

‘Fishing works much better under a common framework. This bill offers an opportunity for the four UK countries to co–design a new fisheries policy that supports sustainable fishing alongside a healthy marine environment.’

We are calling on the relevant authorities in Northern Ireland to grasp this opportunity to work together on fisheries management and improve the health of our seas for all. It is vital that the people of Northern Ireland who care for our seas and the livelihoods which depend on them also have a say in the future of our sea.

13th September 2018

NI fisheries.PNG

July 2018

NIMTF & Nature Matters NI Fisheries White Paper Consultation Response

The NIMTF & Nature Matters NI have submitted a joint response to the DEFRA consultation on “Sustainable fisheries for future generations” (Fisheries White Paper). Click here to read our response in full.