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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Weir (Local Democracy Reporter)

Plans revealed for new oyster nursery in Mid and East Antrim

Mid and East Antrim’s first oyster nursery in Glenarm.

Mid and East Antrim’s first oyster nursery in Glenarm.

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council has indicated plans to establish an oyster nursery at Carrickfergus Marina.

In a response to a DAERA (Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs) ‘Blue Carbon Action Plan’ consultation, the council said that it has been “establishing new native oyster colonies in Glenarm Marina. This work is being delivered alongside Ulster Wildlife. We also have plans to replicate this in Carrickfergus Marina.”

Oysters from Loch Ryan in Scotland have been placed in cages and bags hanging below Glenarm Marina pontoons. The nursery facility will remain in place for four years with monitoring by Ulster Wildlife.

 It is understood an oyster nursery can improve water quality at marinas with one oyster able to filter eight litres of water an hour.

The project is the second of its kind in Northern Ireland. There are currently 16 restoration projects in the UK one of which is an oyster nursery at Bangor Marina.

Ulster Wildlife says that In Northern Ireland, extensive oyster beds are known to have existed in Belfast Lough, Carlingford Lough and Lough Foyle for several hundred years and Glenarm has also been home to native oyster beds.

A DAERA consultation document presented to Mid and East Antrim Borough Council’s Environment and Economy Committee at a meeting last week said that the Blue Carbon Action Plan “represents a commitment to the protection and where possible, restoration of Northern Ireland’s Blue Carbon habitats and habitat creation where feasible”.

Blue Carbon habitats act as a “natural solution to climate change and can protect against coastal erosion and flooding, represent wider biodiversity including nursery grounds for commercially important fish species. In coastal and inland environments, these include saltmarsh beds, seagrass and kelp”, the report says.

It also notes that when Blue Carbon habitats become damaged, their “climate change mitigation capacity is reduced or even reversed”.

“The Blue Carbon Action Plan for Northern Ireland reflects the need to embed nature-based projects in plans and policies to meet the net zero target. The development of the plan took place in tandem with a review of the Marine Protected Areas Strategy”, the report says.

The report also states that at present, Northern Ireland has no specific Blue Carbon monitoring programmes. However, DAERA has been monitoring seagrass and saltmarsh in Larne Lough, Lough Foyle, Strangford Lough, Carlingford Lough and Inner Dundrum Bay since 2012. The Climate Change Act (Northern Ireland) 2022 sets a target for net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Waterfoot Marine Conservation Zone was designated in 2016 for the protection of its seagrass which is the largest habitat of its kind in Northern Ireland.

The vision of the Blue Carbon Action Plan is that by 2050, Northern Ireland has “protected well-managed and enhanced Blue Carbon habitats providing increased carbon storage alongside wider ecosystem service benefits which help address the challenges presented by climate change and biodiversity loss”.

In its response to the consultation, Mid and East Antrim Borough Council also states that Larne Lough is home to a “large area” of seagrass “as identified  in the study undertaken by Ulster Wildlife.

“We would like to ensure we are part of the evidence base to establish the extent of Blue Carbon along our coastline.

“Council would be very interested in drawing down funding to deliver local Blue Carbon-based projects within the borough. Mid and East Antrim already know of existing saltmarsh and seagrasss habitats in Larne Lough and also seagrass along the coastline of Glenarm. Larne Lough has some of the best condition saltmarsh in Northern Ireland.

“Council would be very keen to work with DAERA and other bodies on restoration and creation of new saltmarsh and seagrasss habitat along our coastline.”


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