Two new areas of marine protection along NI coastline

Giant's Causeway The sea around the Giant's Causeway is now protected

Two new areas of marine protection off the coastline of Northern Ireland have been announced.

The Special Areas of Conservation include the sea and seabed surrounding the Maidens Islands off Larne and those adjacent to the Portrush Skerries and Giant's Causeway.

The move also provides protection for the harbour porpoise.

Environment Minister Alex Attwood said the sites were important for their "marine habitats and biodiversity".

He added: "They demonstrate my department's ongoing commitment to protecting our seas and the wildlife and ecosystems that they support."

The Special Areas of Conservation at the Maidens include sandbanks, reefs and grey seals, while the areas protected at the Skerries and Causeway includes sea caves, sandbanks and reefs.

Mr Attwood said the waters off the north coast were important for harbour porpoises.

"This designation confirms that their numbers in this area are significant th roughout the year. I hope this encourages people to visit the area to get a glimpse of these beautiful animals."

In the Autumn, the assembly is due to debate the Marine Bill, which aims to protect the coastal areas.

Previously designated marine areas of protection include Strangford Lough, Rathlin Island, Red Bay and Murlough Bay.

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