Outer Belfast Lough Marine Conservation Zone

Date published: 24 February 2017

The designation of Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) safeguards vulnerable or unique marine species and habitats of national importance in the Northern Ireland inshore region based on an ecosystem approach. These MCZs fulfill the obligations on The Marine Act (Northern Ireland) 2013 (the "Act") to contribute to an ecologically coherent UK network of MPAs as well as wider biodiversity commitments at European and global level.



Area: 2.507km2
Location (centroid): 54° 42.368' N 5° 35.795' W
Date Classified: 12/12/2016


Belfast Lough is a large sea inlet situated at the mouths of the Lagan, Farset and Blackstaff Rivers on the eastern coast of Northern Ireland. Outer Belfast Lough MCZ is an exposed area and is located within Northern Ireland’s busiest sea-lough.

Home to a variety of species, the Outer Lough encompasses a wide range of habitats such as subtidal sand and subtidal mixed sediments, sediment dominated bays and rocky shores. The MCZ has been designated due to the presence of a well established population of Ocean quahog that lives buried in the Subtidal (sublittoral) sand habitat. Although distributed throughout Northern Ireland, Ocean quahog is present in a dense aggregation in Outer Belfast Lough; it is thought that the species is well conserved here due to continuous recruitment and high population numbers.

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