NI Environment Minister Mark Durkan has announced that the Marine Act (Northern Ireland) 2013 is now in operation. It received Royal Assent on 17 September and the Act came into operation the following day.
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.”
Details about the Marine Act.
The Marine programme comprises:
* the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 (the UK Act);
* the UK-wide Marine Strategy Regulations 2010 (which transpose the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (2008/56/EC)); and
* the Marine Act (Northern Ireland) 2013.
The Marine Act (Northern Ireland) 2013:
* introduces a management framework for Northern Ireland’s marine waters based on a new system of marine planning;
* further eases the regulatory burden on marine industries; and
* provides greater protection for the marine environment through enhanced nature conservation measures.
Stakeholder engagement will be a key part of the Act’s implementation. It is required:
* for the Statement of Public Participation, which was published at the start of the marine planning process;
* before any detailed work on the marine plan is started;
* as part of the economic, environmental and social appraisal and sustainability appraisal during preparation of the draft marine plan;
* in the selection of candidate MCZ’s and in the designation of approved areas; and
* in any byelaws required to manage MCZ’s.