Marine Conservation Zone proposed to protect Irish Sea porpoises
Harbour porpoises will be protected under new marine safeguards proposed by the Department of the Environment.
The DoE has proposed a new protected Marine Conservation Zone for our smallest marine mammal in the Irish Sea, as well as new protected areas for key seabird colonies and a seagrass colony that provides nursery grounds for marine wildlife.
Northern Ireland has already designated the UK's first marine protected area for harbour porpoise in 2012 - the Causeway Coast and Skerries Special Area of Conservation (SAC) on the north coast.
There are proposals now to create a MCZ somewhere within an area between Belfast and Carlingford loughs, stretching to the other side of the Irish Sea.
The DoE has also proposed new Special Protection Areas around the coast to protect seabirds of European importance such as Manx shearwaters, red-throated divers and terns.
A new MCZ has also been proposed for Red Bay in Co Antrim, which would protect vulnerable beds of seagrass, a fragile plant which produces flowers and seeds. Seagrass meadows are home to wildlife such as larval fish, crustaceans and marine invertebrates.
If designated, the new area will join an existing proposed network including Rathlin Island and Belfast and Carlingford loughs.