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What do we do to protect our coast?

Last updated: 15 May 2015

We have a wide range of responsibilities and we work at all levels within the Government process from policy advice to practical hands-on work on the ground. We are responsible for the implementation of European, regional and national legislation relating to the coastal environment, its heritage, habitats, species and landscapes.

Essentially we are responsible for protecting the natural and built features of the coast and for promoting their appreciation among the public and within all sectors of Government.

Designated Conservation Sites in Northern Ireland

Biodiversity of species and habitats

picture of the Northern Ireland Biodiversity Strategy document cover

In "Biodiversity in Northern Ireland: Recommendations to Government for a Biodiversity Strategy" the Northern Ireland Biodiversity Group (NIBG) set out a number of recommendations for the protection of the coastal and marine environment and and its respective habitats and species in Northern Ireland.

The Government response to the NIBG's publication - Northern Ireland Biodiversity Strategy August 2002 (.PDF 1.55MB)Opens in New window.

The quality of our estuarine and coastal waters

The quality of our estuarine and coastal waters directly affects the species living there and its value to us. Water must be unpolluted to ensure the natural balance of food availability for species and to provide us with fish and shellfish that are safe to eat and water that is safe to swim in.

Under the EC Shellfish Waters Directive, Member States are required to designate coastal and brackish waters, which need protection or improvement in order to support shellfish. This monitoring is carried out by us.

Bathing water quality

Bathing water quality is also monitored by us. The Bathing Water Directive sets quality standards for bathing waters which all countries in the European Union must ensure they meet. In Northern Ireland compliance with the directive is consistently good.

Maritime heritage

As an island nation the coast has always played a major part in our history. Our Built Heritage directorate is responsible for promoting the conservation of our maritime heritage.

Research and monitoring

We commissions research projects on many different aspects of the environment including marine and coastal based projects.

What can you do to help or find out more?

The coast and marine environment are delicate assets which we should be proud of and do our utmost to protect;

  • when visiting the coast keep to paths so as not to cause erosion or disturb the plants and animals living there
  • keep noise to a minimum especially where there are birds and seals, too much noise may prevent them from breeding or scare them away from the young they already have
  • bring your litter home with you. Even though rubbish bins may be available birds can be inquisitive and may quickly empty them of their contents
  • guard against all risks of fire
  • keep your dog under strict control and tidy up after it
  • factsheets are available on different habitats within the marine and coastal environment - a comprehensive list of NIEA factsheets is available online.
  • NIEA Country Parks and Countryside Centres are open to the public and have a wide range of educational facilities available