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Jet skiers accused of 'ruining tranquillity' of Strangford Lough

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An Ards Peninsula resident has claimed the peace and quiet of Strangford Lough is being ruined by an increasing number of jet skiers at the weekends. Stock image posed by model

An Ards Peninsula resident has claimed the peace and quiet of Strangford Lough is being ruined by an increasing number of jet skiers at the weekends. Stock image posed by model

An Ards Peninsula resident has claimed the peace and quiet of Strangford Lough is being ruined by an increasing number of jet skiers at the weekends. Stock image posed by model

An Ards Peninsula resident has claimed the peace and quiet of Strangford Lough is being ruined by an increasing number of jet skiers at the weekends.

Portaferry woman Joan Porter has called for the use of jet skies in the protected area to be more closely monitored.

"I live in a very idyllic spot in Portaferry," she said.

"The peace of it, with small boats scudding across the water and herons idling on the shoreline, makes it one of Northern Ireland's biggest attractions.

"But for weeks now, mostly at weekends and particularly on Sundays, the air and the waters of the lough have been under assault by jet skis whining over the water for hours.

"Over the weekend of August 1-2 there were 23 skis launching around Cook's Quay at Portaferry and skiing across the lough all day.

"One of the essential criteria for an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is stated as 'relative tranquillity, where natural sounds such as streams or birdsong are predominant'. There is nothing natural about the sounds of jet skis.

"The lough has seven statutory nature reserves along its length. It is the largest marine natural reserve in the UK.

"The fragility of its wildlife is threatened. A pair of otters, seals and seal pups are resident where jet skiing is taking place.

"As a journalist I am currently approaching the travel media in England to encourage visitors to come to Northern Ireland for a holiday or short break during the pandemic.

"A description of Strangford Lough on the Visit Ards and North Down website says: 'Tranquil shores await, offering visitors a 365 days a year destination'.

"Tranquil shores? Not any more."

SDLP councillor Joe Boyle, who also lives in Portaferry, said that while he can sympathise, a balance has to be struck as the economy of the area remains dependent on tourism.

"It's only in the last two or three weeks that I've had reports of the extra numbers of jet skiers along the coast," he said.

"And while we don't want it to spoil the peace and tranquillity, we also don't want to put people off coming to the area.

"It's difficult as the council doesn't control Strangford Lough, but I have spoken to council directors about concerns.

"There is a fine line, which we don't want to cross, and if there are more than 20 jet skiers as reported, it does seem a lot; but this is an area where tourists and watersports enthusiasts want to come to."

Ards and North Down Council said: "Council recognises jet skiing is a legitimate and popular sport that many people participate in very responsibly, but equally recognise that in areas like Strangford Lough it must be carefully managed so as not to adversely impact the very special and unique environment and the wider tourism product.

"Any solution will involve a range of stakeholders, and council officers are keen to work with DAERA and other maritime agencies to identify sustainable solutions."

Belfast Telegraph