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Strangford Lough and Lecale Partnership Workshop Report May 22

AONB stakeholders have been taking part in workshops to develop new management action plans for Strangford and Lecale AONB 2023 -26


See report for outcomes of first workshop in May 22.

It’s Just Conservation: To What Extent Are Marine Protected Areas in the Irish Sea Equitably Governed and Managed?

In early 2020 Strangford Lough stakeholders were invited to take part in a workshop to help PhD researcher Constance Schéré in her research, ‘To what extent does governance play a role in how effectively a marine protected area in the Irish Sea reaches its biological and socioeconomic goals? In other words, does governance influence or determine whether or not an MPA is successful?’

Constance's study on equity and governance in Irish Sea MPAs has been published in Frontiers in Marine Science! You can read it online here or download a free PDF copy under “Download Article” on the righthand side: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fmars.2021.668919/full

The Impact of Dog walking and Human Activity on over-wintering bird populations in Greyabbey Bay

Strangford Lough is an important area for marine wildlife and nature conservation not only within the UK, but worldwide. This is reflected in the host of designations it contains, such as an SPA (Special Protection Area), Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and the Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ). It is part of the Europe-wide network of Natura 2000 (N2K) and European Marine Sites (EMS), which aim to protect the range of important European habitats and species and to maintain the European Union’s overall biodiversity. Strangford Lough has also been designated as a Ramsar site under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.

One of the strongest pieces of legislation is the SPA (under the EU Birds Directive) that governs the lough is in relation to its bird species. The Lough supports major concentrations of wintering waterfowl with peak counts in excess of 70,000 birds including 90% of the world’s population of pale-bellied brent geese. The disturbance of these birds has been raised as an issue by the EU commission (1992) as research has proven that disruption of bird populations has a significant negative impact on their feeding and breeding behaviour. The effect of disturbance can therefore have an impact on the success of bird species.

Strangford Lough, as well as a home to important wildlife is also an area used recreationally by a number of people. Among the key activities are dog walking, kite surfing, kayaking, windsurfing, sailing, swimming and fishing. There is always a challenge for recreational users to enjoy the shores and water in a safe and sustainable way. An initial report was commissioned in 2014 by the SLLP, Sport NI, NIEA and the National Trust (Mellon & Allen 2015) to investigate the impact of kite surfing on over-wintering bird populations. This study focused on four key areas around the lough and was brought about by anecdotal reports that this particular activity was causing a significant negative impact on over-wintering bird populations.

The report, published in 2015, revealed that kite surfing had a relatively small impact on the birds but the observation sessions did record that off lead dog walking was in fact a much more significant factor in disturbance. Results revealed that 33% of disturbance events were as the result of dogs off lead and that the response of birds to dogs was more severe than any other event. The current study was undertaken in response to the observations and recommendations of that report and to additional accounts from bird watchers in the area.

A Sustainable Outdoor Recreation Plan for Strangford and Lecale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Strangford Lough Marine Protected Area

In October 2017, Outdoor Recreation NI (ORNI) was commissioned by Strangford Lough and LecalePartnership to develop -‘A Sustainable Outdoor Recreation Plan for the Strangford and Lecale Area of Outstanding NaturalBeauty (AONB) and Strangford Lough Marine Protected Area (MPA)’.

Funding for the project was provided from both Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs - Northern Ireland Environment Agency and Sport Northern Ireland. In addition to these organisations the project steering group was comprised of representatives of Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs – Marine and Fisheries Division, Newry, Mourne And DownDistrict Council and Ards and North Down Borough Council.The study area covers the Strangford and Lecale AONB including the Strangford Lough Marine Protected Area. The area measures approximately 52,553 hectares and is located within the jurisdiction of Newry, Mourne and Down District Council and Ards and North Down Borough Council. A large part of the area is water, hence, recreation on or close to the water is a key focus of this report.

 Full document and separate Executive Summary can be downloaded here:-

An audit of access to Strangford Lough for water-based recreation

Strangford Lough and Lecale Partnership, on behalf of Newry, Mourne and Down District Council and Ards and North Down Borough Council commissioned Outdoor Recreation NI to complete 'An Audit of Access to Strangford Lough for Water-based Recreation' May 2018.

This included:- 

  • an audit of current and potential access to the lough for water-based recreation
  • site based recommendations relevant to potential development of sustainable water-based recreation
  • strategic recommendations relevant to the holistic development and management of sustainable water-based recreation


Householder Awareness Improving Water Quality in your local area

Advice from NIEA on raising household awareness to improving water quality in your local area, which includes NIEA free phone hotline 24hr number for reporting urgent water pollution incidents in confidence and an email address for other incidents that do not require immediate attention


Sport NI Report Skiffie Worlds 2016

Report on Skiffie Worlds that took place in the Quoile estuary July 2016

Mourne & Strangford Lough Coastal Walking Path Technical and Feasibility Study August 2015

The aim of this study was to 'Assess the feasibility of developing a coastal walking path between Greencastle and Portavogie identifying tourism and development opportunities that will enhance the visitor experience along the way by creating unique attractions and experiences'.


Strangford Lough is not a static system, but is subject to natural change both in terms of its biological communities and its geomorphology.  The conservation objectives are designed to accommodate the dynamic nature of the site.  In overall terms, Strangford Lough was deemed to be in Favourable Condition at the time of its designation.  This does not rule out setting targets that will enhance the condition of any feature or sub-feature.

County Down Seafood - August 2015

This report was produced by tourism specalists BTS, supported by fish industry experts Poseidon Consulting.  It is a market based business plan, commissioned by Strangford Lough & Lecale Partnership (SLLP), with funding from the EU and the South East Area Fisheries Local Action Group (SEAFLAG), to provide economic benefit to the South East Area which includes the fishing ports Portavogie, Ardglass, and Kilkeel.

The analysis is designed to help develop the local market for locally caught seafood and local quality agricultural produce within the area.  The project examines the opportunities, for food tourism in the Strangford Lough and Mourne Mountain destination, building on the concentration of the Northern Ireland fishing industry in the area, the quality of other local food produce and the number and the quality of local eating places across the area.


The establishment of kelp grids for seaweed cultivation in the 18th Century marks the first aquaculture activity in Strangford Lough. Seaweed cultivation and harvesting for soda production probably continued for over 100 years until its demise in the 1830s when it became uneconomic (McErlean 2002). This period probably represents the greatest impact on the intertidal areas of the Lough in recorded history. Experimental studies into the growth of the oysters Crassostrea gigas and Ostrea edulis by Parsons (1974) and Briggs (1978) demonstrated the suitability of Strangford Lough for oyster culture and stimulated its development in the Lough. Consequently, aquaculture in the Lough, which started in the 1970s with a few producers, focused initially on oysters (Figure 1). For example, Cuan Oysters, which was established in 1974, played an important role in the development of aquaculture in the UK by pioneering culture methods for very small hatchery-reared oyster seed. Cuan Oysters is currently the major producer of oysters in Strangford Lough, and one of the main producers in the UK, handling over 400 tonnes of oysters per annum (http://www.cuanoysters.com/seafood/index.html). Aquaculture in Strangford Lough continues to focus entirely on bivalves but now includes mussels and scallops as well as Pacific and native oysters. This section reviews the development of aquaculture since the 1970s in the context of recent ecological changes and the Shellfish Aquaculture

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