MCZ Project Northern Ireland


In the Northern Ireland inshore region the MCZ Project was set up to identify Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs), a new type of protection afforded to the UK marine environment through the Marine and Coastal Access Act (2009) and Part 3 of the Marine Act (Northern Ireland) (2013), specifically relating to the Northern Ireland inshore region (within 12 nautical miles of the shore).



The Northern Ireland Act received Royal Assent in 2013, and since then, the process of identifying and designating MCZs has progressed with support from JNCC. The Guidance on selection and designation of Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) in the Northern Ireland inshore region was used to underpin the selection and designation of MCZs in the Northern Ireland inshore region. The process has included a number of stakeholder workshops and extensive data collation and collection. The MCZ proposals were subject to public consultation in late 2015 to early 2016.


On 12th December 2016, DAERA Marine and Fisheries Division designated four MCZs in the Northern Ireland inshore region. The following list details the sites and their designated features:

  • Rathlin MCZ - Deep-sea bed, Black guillemot and Geological/geomorphological features indicating past change in relative sea level.
  • Waterfoot MCZ - Seagrass (Zostera marina) bed on Subtidal (sublittoral) sand.
  • Outer Belfast Lough MCZ - Ocean quahog (Arctica islandica) and associated habitat Subtidal (sublittoral) sand.
  • Carlingford Lough MCZ - Philine aperta and Virgularia mirabilis in Subtidal (sublittoral) mud.


These four MCZs join Strangford Lough MCZ, which was re-designated from a Marine Nature Reserve to an MCZ on the introduction of the Marine Act (Northern Ireland) in 2013, creating a total of five MCZs in the Northern Ireland inshore region.


A suite of documents have been prepared to support each MCZ designation which are available on the site specific pages of the DAERA website.  These include:

  • Designation orders
  • Site Summary documents
  • Conservation Objective and Potential Management Options documents



Following these new designations, DAERA asked JNCC to assess the progress of the MPA network against Northern Ireland’s marine conservation policy commitments. The ecological coherence of the MPA network was examined within the context of the Northern Ireland inshore region, but JNCC also assessed Northern Ireland’s contribution to the broader UK MPA network. The report considers whether there are any remaining ecological gaps that could be addressed to further the progress of the Northern Ireland MPA network.


Summary - Northern Ireland Marine Protected Areas Network Assessment Summary (2018)
Full report - Assessing progress towards an ecologically coherent network of Marine Protected Areas in the Northern Ireland inshore region (2018)

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