Rathlin 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: 90.57km2
Location (centroid): 55° 19.160' N 6° 12.684' W
Date Classified: 12/12/2016


Rathlin Island is the northernmost point of Northern Ireland. The MCZ surrounds Rathlin Island with a large extension between the north of the Island and the North Channel. The site includes other Marine Protected Areas (MPAs): Rathlin Island Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and Rathlin Island Special Protection Area (SPA).

Rathlin MCZ has been designated for Deep-sea bed, Black guillemot and Geological/Geomorphological features.

The MCZ contains the only known location of the broad scale habitat, Deep-sea bed in Northern Irish waters. This habitat is particularly unique in Northern Ireland inshore waters due to the steep drop-off in depth (>200m), close proximity to land and a range of deep subtidal sands, mixed sediments and rock.

Rathlin Island also supports a large population of Black guillemots (Cepphus grylle) that nest within the Island’s cliffs. Although Black guillemots have a widespread distribution throughout Northern Ireland there is a significant breeding and nesting population within Rathlin Island. Their reproductive success here may be related to the highly productive waters and rich feeding grounds within the MCZ.

A range of subtidal Geological and Geomorphological features have also been recorded along the north coast of the Island including a submerged coastline, underwater caves, sea arches and lagoons. These are important indicators of global sea-level change.

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