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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 January, 2005, 07:52 GMT
NI marine life in decline - WWF
Horse mussels on the bed of Strangford Lough
Horse mussels on the bed of Strangford Lough
Marine life in and around Northern Ireland is in decline, according to a leading environmental charity.

Horse mussel beds, once widespread in Strangford Lough, are one of the 16 "flagship" species and habitats monitored by WWF.

Despite government protection, the WWF survey showed that Strangford Lough had lost 3.7 square kilometres of these beds since 1993.

Disturbance by mobile fishing gear was the most likely cause, it said.

Clear instructions

However, the report noted that the continued clean-up of the Lagan had allowed the reintroduction and natural repopulation of Atlantic salmon in the Belfast river.

Part of the River Foyle has also been proposed as a special area of conservation (SAC) due to its salmon population.

However, despite clear instructions from the European Commission to the UK government in 2003 to designate more SACs for Atlantic salmon in Northern Ireland, no more have yet been proposed.

Malachy Campbell, policy officer at WWF Northern Ireland, said: "The situation in Strangford is indicative of how our seas are being mismanaged.

"Only five years ago, the first Marine Health Check was released and unfortunately things do not appear to have improved since then. In fact, they seem to have got worse."

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