Muir seeks views on proposals aimed at protecting marine environment

Date published: 22 April 2024

DAERA Minister Andrew Muir has said immediate action is needed to tackle the twin crises of biodiversity loss and climate change.

The Minister was speaking as he launched two consultations seeking views on two proposals aimed at improving protection of our marine environment.

The development of an updated Marine Protected Areas Strategy (MPA) and the Blue Carbon Action Plan will contribute to the effective management of the Northern Ireland marine environment, helping to address biodiversity loss while also realising wider environmental and societal benefits. Both recognise the need to embed nature-based solutions in plans and policies to meet the net zero target, as described under the NI Climate Change Act (2022).

Launching the Blue Carbon Action Plan consultation, the Minister said: “The development of this Action Plan signifies a pivotal moment in our understanding of how marine ecosystems can help contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation. It recognises that if these habitats become degraded or damaged their ability to capture and store greenhouse gases declines.”

The development of the Action Plan has taken place in tandem with a Review of the Marine Protected Areas Strategy offering a timely opportunity to consider the protection and restoration of blue carbon habitats within the existing Marine Protected Areas network.

Speaking on the consultation of the Review of the Marine Protected Areas Strategy, the Minister said: “Since the publication of the first MPA Strategy in 2014 our understanding of how MPAs function and the role that marine ecosystems play in climate change adaption and mitigation has grown significantly.”

The Minister continued: “We need to take immediate action to tackle the twin crises of biodiversity loss and climate change. These consultations will help ensure that our marine environment is managed in a way that will help address biodiversity loss and harness wider environmental and societal benefits.

“I would strongly encourage anyone who feels they can contribute, in words and also in actions, to respond to these consultations so that together we can produce an updated MPA Strategy and a Blue Carbon Action Plan that will both bring wide-ranging benefits to our environment and society.”

The consultation documents and online questionnaire are available from today on the DAERA website and also at Consultation on the Northern Ireland Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) Strategy Review. The online questionnaire will be available for twelve weeks until 5pm on 11 July 2024.

Notes to editors: 

  1. Both the Review of the MPA Strategy and Blue Carbon Action Plan are targets in the draft Environment Improvement Plan. They have been developed using an innovative co-design approach with the Biodiversity and Climate Stakeholder Working Group which was formed in 2022.
  2. Since the publication and implementation of the original Marine Protected Area (MPA) Strategy in 2014, several key strategic policy drivers have been developed at global, UK and Northern Ireland levels relating to biodiversity loss and climate change. The Review of the MPA Strategy acknowledges the role that MPAs play in addressing biodiversity loss and their potential application as a nature-based solution to support adaptation and resilience to climate change. The review also seeks to maximise co-benefits that a well-managed MPA network can provide.
  3. Download the first MPA Strategy.
  4. Blue carbon is the term used to describe the atmospheric carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, that is captured and stored by coastal and marine ecosystems, also known as ‘carbon sequestration’. Blue carbon habitats in temperate coastal and inshore environments include saltmarsh, seagrass beds, shellfish beds, kelp, and maerl beds. These habitats, when well managed, can increase carbon sequestration and can also act as nature-based solutions offering protection against coastal erosion and flooding and habitats to support wider biodiversity including nursery grounds for commercially important fish species. There are also wider societal benefits including opportunities for recreation and improved water quality.
  5. All media queries should be directed to the DAERA Press Office: or telephone: 028 9016 3460.
  6. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service for media enquiries only between 1800 hrs and 0800 hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.
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