Within Living Seas, marine wildlife thrives, from the depths of the ocean to the coastal shallows.
Living Seas is Ulster Wildlifes’ vision for the future of the Northern Ireland’s seas.
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.
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, spidercrabs 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.
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