Page last updated at 12:36 GMT, Thursday, 8 November 2012

Environment Committee

The Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) said it had not made a decision on the areas to be designated as marine conservation zones (MCZ), on 8 November 2012.

An agency representative along with Department of Environment officials gave a briefing to the Environment Committee on the Marine Bill.

The bill contains provisions for marine planning and nature conservation within Northern Ireland's territorial waters.

It will also enable the Department of Environment, with agreement from the Secretary of State, to designate areas as MCZs.

Creating the zones would mean a ban on fishing, dredging and anchoring in all or some of the areas in order to to conserve certain species.

NIEA's head of aquatic science Joe Breen said that fishermen had been concerned that the MCZs had already been decided upon without much consultation.

He said there had been a pre-consultation with fishermen but the department had only begun gathering data.

"We can't proceed with selection until the Marine Bill comes in," he added.

Sinn Fein's Cathal Boylan said he was concerned with how activities on the periphery of an MCZ would be displaced.

Mr Breen, however, said a designation would not necessarily mean that restrictions would be introduced.

Committee members also received a briefing on the department's savings delivery plans and representatives from the Met Office gave information on the scientific understanding of climate change.

Prof Stephen Belcher from the Met Office told members how projections had shown that, in the future, Northern Ireland would experience increased average temperatures throughout the year, increased average rainfall in winter, decreased rainfall in summer and rising sea levels.

He said that, according to research from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), global warming was "unequivocal" and was "very likely due to human activities".

Environment committee membership

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