New Marine Division for Department of the Environment
Environment Minister Alex Attwood has announced that his department is to have a dedicated marine division.
He said it would deliver policy and legislation to promote, protect and sustain Northern Ireland's coastal waters.
It will also be responsible for implementing European Commission, international and national legislation.
Mr Attwood said it was a "big step forward".
"There is no doubt that our marine environment has a massive role to play in the lives of the people of Northern Ireland," he said.
"The wealth of its resources, the splendour of its biodiversity, the simple fact of it being a huge natural resource to be enjoyed, means it is vital that we concentrate our efforts to protect and sustain it."
Mr Attwood said he would be going to the Stormont Executive shortly "recommending that colleagues support clauses for a marine management organisation to be incorporated into the Marine Bill which is about to return to the Assembly".
"I believe bringing all marine functions across government departments into an independent marine management organisation is the way to go," he added.
"I hope to win the argument."