Living Seas is Ulster Wildlife's vision for the future of Northern Ireland’s seas, where wildlife thrives and people enjoy all the benefits of a healthy marine environment

Northern Ireland’s diverse coastline extends over 400 miles, from dramatic headlands and rocky shores to sheltered bays, through five sea Loughs to wide sandy beaches and dunes. The sea itself consists of a dynamic merging of warm southern ocean water and cooler northern ocean water, creating a marine environment home to some of our most fascinating wildlife, including grey seals, puffins and dolphins.

Within Living Seas, marine wildlife thrives, from the depths of the ocean to the coastal shallows

Along our shores, rockpools teem with anemones and starfish, while further offshore mud plains, which may appear to be barren and lifeless, host complex seabed communities including bristle worms, spider crabs and lobsters. Colourful reefs, seagrass meadows and dramatic kelp forests make up just a fraction of the wealth of extraordinary marine habitats around Northern Ireland, which support a huge diversity of plants and animals.

Some of our unique marine habitats include:

  • The reefs and sea caves of Rathlin Island which are home to sponges, soft corals, anemones and hydroids, many of which are found nowhere else in the world
  • The intertidal mud flats and saltmarshes of Strangford Lough, which are the winter home for many waterfowl including the light-bellied Brent geese that travel all the way from Canada
  • The coral-like algae (maerl) beds off the East Antrim coast, built upon fossil beds that are up to 6000 years old! The beds harbour a rich diversity of animals which are an important nursery ground for scallops, and other key commercial species
  • The spectacular dynamic coastline of rugged cliffs, unparalleled geological formations and secluded bays carved by the ferocious Atlantic waves, which together create the magnificent views at the Giant’s Causeway and Causeway Coast World Heritage Site 

The Wildlife Trusts believe that Living Seas are possible within 20 years – one generation

In Living Seas:

  • Wildlife and habitats are recovering from past decline as our use of the seas’ resources becomes environmentally sustainable
  • The natural environment is adapting well to a changing climate, and ocean processes are helping to slow down climate change
  • People are inspired by marine wildlife and value the sea for the many ways in which it supports our quality of life

Ulster Wildlife is aiming to to work towards a healthy, productive and wildlife-rich future through four Living Seas themes:

  • Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and wildlife
  • Fishing and seafood
  • Marine planning and sustainable development
  • Legislation and Policy

To find out more, download our Living Seas Vision or watch our Living Seas film below