UNIQUE sponges near Rathlin Island need to be protected, Ulster Unionist councillor Joan Baird said.
The councillor won support from Moyle Council in supporting what she said was the important Marine Conservation Bill currently under debate.
She said Marine Conservation Zones need to be established around Northern Ireland “with effective enforcement measures to protect and nurture the most important sights and species found in our waters”.
Cllr Baird added: “We are especially concerned about the unique and diverse variety of sponges found off Rathlin Island.”
Cllr Baird told the Times: “Northern Ireland Seas are not fully protected and as a result there are declining fish stocks and the ecology of the waters are in decline.”
She says there are over 50 species of sponges near Rathlin to protect, including one unique species that occurs nowhere else in the world.
She believes that legislation should support this marine life so it can be appreciated by future generations.
Cllr Baird would like to emphasise that conservation measures would not mean that fishermen would have to pack in their trade, she merely wishes to stress that “without conservation methods, there will be no more fish in the sea.”
Report: Niall Caldwell.