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Last Updated: Wednesday, 31 August 2005, 06:50 GMT 07:50 UK
Climate change 'species threat'
Harbour porpoise
The harbour porpoise could be under threat
Some species around Northern Ireland's coast are under threat because the sea is warming up, a WWF report has found.

The report warns the UK and Irish marine environment could see changes, with a deepening decline in cod and threats to sea bird colonies.

Pollution and reduced food could accelerate the decline of the harbour porpoise, a common sight off the east Antrim coast and the Foyle Estuary.

Malachy Campbell of WWF NI said the seas were under "severe pressure".

"This report shows that climate change has the power to deepen this crisis, disrupting and changing the entire ecosystem," he said.

The report - Climate change: Plunging our Seas into Deeper Crisis - said an increase in sea surface temperature will be a major factor in further disrupting the breeding, feeding and growing cycles of fish, and in turn sea birds and mammals.

Storms

Changes in the distribution, seasonality and growth, of plankton - the foundation of the marine food chain - will hit many species including cod, in addition to the existing pressures from fisheries, according to the report.

The report also found that major storm surges will have destructive impacts on coastal areas as they become more frequent.

Sea level rise is also likely to reduce available coastal habitats of sea birds through erosion and damage to nesting sites.

Sand eels, a major food source for birds and fish, which breed in shallow sand banks, may also be affected.

Mr Campbell said urgent action needed to be taken on climate change and marine initiatives.

"As an island, both issues are extremely important yet there is currently no long term integrated Northern Ireland strategy to adequately deal with either of these issue," he said.

"Our seas are one of our most important resources and it is vital that new legislation in the form of a Marine Bill is introduced, which will better protect our marine wildlife and reform the way our seas are planned and managed to ensure they are economically productive and sustainable for future generations."


SEE ALSO:
NI marine life in decline - WWF
18 Jan 05 |  Northern Ireland
Arctic melt 'will affect NI'
03 Nov 04 |  Northern Ireland


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