Alliance environment spokesperson Anna Lo MLA has called for Northern Ireland Environment Agency to be given independence from the DoE.
The failure to protect wildlife in Strangford Lough and the risk of infractions shows the need for an independent body, she said.
Environment Minister Alex Attwood said Northern Ireland’s built, natural and archaeological heritage needed the fullest protection and that required an independent environment agency.
“It’s good to hear that Alliance are catching up with my agenda,” he said.
Ms Lo said the agency currently sits with the DoE, yet nearly all environment agencies in other countries are independent of their government.
“The actions of some of our departments in looking after our environment have been called into question such as over the Strangford Lough horse mussel, which could result in large fines being imposed by Europe over our failure to protect this species,” she said.
“There is clearly a need to have an independent organisation that can work without fear of interference of Government departments.”
Mr Attwood said: “I welcome the comments of the Alliance Party, given my repeated support and call for an independent environment agency.
“I have made it clear that (our heritage) needs the fullest protection and positive development. In my firm view, the fullest protection comes with the greatest independence of regulation — that means an independent environment agency,” he added.