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Strangford Lough saved?
In December 2003 Ian Pearson, the Minister of Agriculture, placed a temporary ban on trawling and dredging in Strangford Lough because of extensive damage to the site's precious horse mussel beds.
The decision was made only after the Ulster Wildlife Trust and Friends of the Earth made official complaints to the European Commission.
Strangford Lough is a Special Area of Conservation due in large part to the internationally important horse mussel beds and is the jewel in Northern Ireland's conservation crown. The beds allow a wide variety of animals to thrive in the lough, including prawns and scallops which are prized by the trawler operators.
A report produced by Queen's University Belfast revealed that the horse mussels have been decimated and that urgent action is needed to restore the beds. The report concludes that the beds are no-longer in favourable conservation status - the condition in which the species is able to sustain itself in the long-term.
Despite this, the Department of Agriculture allowed trawling to continue until Friends of the Earth pointed out it was exposing itself to fines from Europe.
Press for change
- Email Ian Pearson MP, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, and ask him to make the trawling ban permanent.
- Email Angela Smith MP, Minister of the Environment, and insist she take immediate steps to restore the damaged horse mussel beds to favourable conservation status.