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Marine Act now in operation – Durkan

Environment Minister Mark Durkan announced that the Marine Act (Northern Ireland) 2013 has come into operation.

This is the final piece of an ambitious marine legislative programme, which strengthens Northern Ireland’s ability to manage its marine waters in a better way.

The Act’s implementation will assist Northern Ireland in contributing to the aim of having clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse oceans and seas.

For the first time, a marine plan for Northern Ireland will be prepared. The plan will strategically manage the activities that happen in our waters now and in the future, in what is becoming an increasingly busy environment.

In addition, the Act provides powers to establish new Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs). These will form part of a wider network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), which will ensure that Northern Ireland’s marine biodiversity is safeguarded.

In fact, the Act immediately establishes Strangford Lough as Northern Ireland’s first MCZ.

Environment Minister, Mark H Durkan, said: “I welcome this important Act. I know it has been a long journey for many, but the result is that we now have a strong Act in place that serves all who use and care for our seas.

“I am determined now to focus my attention on its implementation. I intend to drive forward the preparatory work already started to establish our first ever marine plan and to develop further the work that will lead to the establishment of MCZs.

“These will be transparent and inclusive processes. So, in the coming months, there will be further opportunities to engage in the marine plan process as it is being developed and on the identification of MCZs. I encourage everyone to make use of those opportunities as they are publicised.”