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THE PUBLIC are to have their say over the use of jet skis in protected areas – something that has become an increasingly controversial issue around Strangford Lough.

Recent years have seen a huge uptick in people speeding around the lough on high-powered jet skis, something that has not only sparked safety fears but has raised concerns about the impact of watercraft on protected marine life. Strangford Lough is a designated Marine Area of Special Scientific Interest, and sea waters off the coast of the Ards Peninsula are in a special conservation area. There’s also a Marine Conservation Zone around the mouth of the lough, meaning waters on both sides of the peninsula are supposed to be protected by law. But there are fears that the disruption caused by jet skis could damage those protected areas, leading to Stormont’s Department of Agriculture, the Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) launching a consultation asking what should be done about the issue.

The consultation examines what measures could be used to manage the use of fast craft and personal watercraft in marine protected areas, and is aimed at organisations, groups, and people who undertake activities, or have a general interest, in the marine area. DAERA minister Edwin Poots said: “Well managed marine protected area networks are recognised internationally and are one way of protecting our marine environment. “My department has established a network of 48 protected areas providing protection for 38% of Northern Ireland’s inshore region. “The proposals outlined in the consultation will enable both commercial marine tour operators and users of fast craft to carry out their activities in a sustainable manner that helps to protect our marine species. “I would encourage anyone with an interest in marine life to respond to the consultations. The closing date for responses to the consultation is September 1st, 2022.” The consultation can be found at fastcraftinMPAs

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