Ministers Launch 'State of the Seas' Report

Northern Ireland State of the Seas’. The report, produced primarily by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) and the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI), is the first of its kind to cover the marine environment in Northern Ireland. In introducing the report at the Belfast Harbour Commissioners’ Offices today, Environment Minister Edwin Poots emphasised that the production of the Northern Ireland State of the Seas report is a key milestone in documenting our collective understanding of the seas around our coastline. He said, This is a key time in managing our marine environment. We have an extremely rich and varied coastline with the marine species in our seas contributing to over half the overall biodiversity in Northern Ireland. Other important marine resources include fisheries, tourism, shipwrecks and beaches. Our economy is reliant on sea transport and on our ports. There is great potential for the emerging marine renewables industry which could exploit the tidal, wave and offshore wind around our shores. Northern Ireland is home to the first grid connected, commercial-scale marine current turbine in the world. [caption id="attachment_19474" align="alignleft" width="332" caption="Environment Minister Edwin Poots and Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Michelle Gildernew today launched a ground-breaking report entitled "Northern Ireland State of the Seas". Minister Edwin Poots is seen holding an underwater camera while Minister Gildernew is holding the vertebrae of a Minke Whale. (Photos by Simon Graham/Harrison Photography)."][/caption] The marine environment will benefit from new protection measures preventing sewage, litter, and other pollutants from causing further harm in the Irish Sea area. “However, there is increasing competition for space within our waters. For this reason, my Department is bringing forward legislation to introduce marine planning for the first time. Good marine planning decisions will be reliant on sound scientific evidence.” Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Michelle Gildernew said, “Well-targeted science is the only way to increase our understanding of the state of our seas and to assess the impacts that the increasing demands on marine resources can have. This report provides an assessment of the state of our seas for the first time and will be invaluable in identifying where further knowledge is required. “I wish to thank both AFBI and the Environment Agency staff for all the hard work they put into preparing such an invaluable and comprehensive report. The final report will be of great value to Government and other bodies with marine responsibilities and interests and I hope that it will foster even greater cooperation in managing our marine resources.” The report covers 14 different aspects of marine environmental quality ranging from fish and foodwebs to marine litter and underwater noise. It documents the clean up of areas like Belfast Lough. This is due to the reductions of some of the traditional pollutants like heavy metals and nutrients through the improved treatment of sewage, industrial and agricultural effluents. It is anticipated that these changes will help to make further improvements at our bathing waters. The report points to threats to our native biodiversity from ocean transport and boating which can introduce alien species. In terms of commercial fisheries, the report reveals that Irish Sea herring stock has improved to a point where it is considered stable, while haddock spawning is on the increase. There is evidence that Dublin Bay prawns and plaice are being harvested sustainably, while some traditionally fished species such as cod and whiting are at historically low levels. If these trends are to be halted and reversed it is widely accepted that the management of fisheries must evolve towards an ecosystem-based approach, rather than trying to manage fisheries on a stock-by-stock basis. The report concludes that there is a need to further improve our understanding of the marine environment by more joined-up working between Departments. The production of the Northern Ireland State of the Seas is a start on this journey towards the holistic management of our coastal and marine area. The Report can be accessed at]]>