01/05/2013

New Marine Bill Put Before Assembly

This week has been described as 'the most important in a generation for our marines', following new laws designed to protect and manage Northern Ireland's marine life and biodiversity.

Yesterday saw the 4th stage of the Marine Bill in the Assembly while today sees the launch of a consultation strategy for Marine Protection Areas (MPAs).

The Marine Bill will give new powers to select and manage Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs).

Today's consultation strategy launch is the beginning of the development of a network of (MPAs) to ensure that biodiversity is safeguarded.

Environment Minister Alex Attwood said: "Northern Ireland’s seas are home to some of the world's most spectacular wildlife and habitats, and have the potential to power our nation through wind and wave and create thousands of new jobs.

"We have reached a turning point and must modernise in order to meet increasing and competing demands on our seas. Strangford Lough is the birthplace of tidal energy and the knowledge and expertise gained will further enhance our capability to expand the technology within Northern Ireland and throughout the world."

The main contents of the Marine Bill include the creation of a National Marine Plan, to enable decision making in the marine environment and encourage investment.

New powers will be granted to select and manage Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) to enhance marine biodiversity.

"The recent investment by Dong Energy in Belfast Harbour and award of seabed leases for extensive off shore renewable energy developments in North Antrim and East Down are positive outworkings of the Executive’s commitment to place Northern Ireland centre stage in exploiting our marine energy resource," Minister Attwood said.

"A single marine plan will make us an attractive option for international investment.

"Marine Conservation Zones will help us protect important marine habitats and species and we will work closely with others to ensure that the site selection process is underpinned by sound scientific and socio economic advice. These new powers will also allow us to be more joined up with the fisheries industry.

"The development of renewable energy is vital in our fight against climate change, and our seas will become increasingly important in meeting this challenge. This new framework will ensure that our seas continue to oil our economy and put food on our tables.

"We owe it to future generations to ensure our seas are managed and harvested sustainably. Economic growth is vital, but it should be balanced with protection for our stunning marine environment. That is why I have set up a specific Marine Division in DOE to lead in this"

(IT/CD)

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