Strangford trawling ban extended
The Department of the Environment (DOE) and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) have announced that last December's ban on trawling in Strangford Lough should continue 'for the foreseeable future'.
Strangford Lough's precious horse mussels have now been saved from the trawlers.
The move came after Friends of the Earth visited the Commission to urge it to accelerate the legal process which would force Northern Ireland to comply with European law.
Following the meeting the Commission wrote to the departments to remind them of their obligations under the Habitats Directive to protect the lough and to restore the horse mussels to Favourable Conservation Status.
Jewel in Northern Ireland's wildlife crown
Strangford Lough contains horse mussel beds which allow a wide variety of animals to thrive in the lough. These include prawns and scallops which are prized by trawler operators.
But research carried out by Queen's University Belfast discovered the Lough's horse mussel communities had been badly damaged by years of trawling and dredging.
Despite the damning report DOE and DARD were reluctant to impose a ban until Friends of the Earth and the Ulster Wildlife Trust made complaints (PDF format) to the European Commission. A temporary ban was imposed in December 2003.