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Students act to save our seas

Students act to save our Seas

Students from schools in Northern Ireland made history last week (24 May 2012), when they appeared before the Environment Committee to give their views on the Marine Bill.

The Marine Bill is a proposal for a new law to protect the seas around our coast.  It was introduced to the Assembly by the Environment Minister, Alex Attwood MLA, and the Assembly must pass it before it can become law.

Students with MLAs from the Environment Committee after their evidence sessionAfter MLAs debated the Bill in the Chamber and agreed that it was a good idea to make a law in this area, the Bill was sent to the voted to the Assembly’s Environment Committee to be examined in detail. This involves the Committee getting the views of experts and people from coastal communities who will be affected by the Bill, such as fishermen, divers and marine biologists.

The students have been working with the RSPB and the Marine Task Force and are keen to ensure that this legislation creates the best possible system for managing our marine environment.  The students have been following the Bill since the start of its journey through the law-making process.

Carol Moorhead, a QUB Biology Student, said that the students were “very honoured and excited to be a part of this Marine Bill consultation. As a group of young people with a passion and keen interest in our marine environment, we are delighted to take part as active citizens forming this most important piece of … legislation”. Carol told the Committee that ‘the present system is not working and is putting our marine inheritance at risk, perhaps even seeing the extinction of some species…”

Matthew Ferguson from Down High School, who dives off the coast of County Down, also expressed his concern about the future of seas around NI: “The writing is on the wall for our marine environment; to continue with business as usual would devastate our seas … denying future generations the sea to work, play and live on”.

Chair of the Environment Committee, Anna Lo MLA said, “I am delighted that these young people are engaging in the legislative process and that we are able to encourage them to make their voice heard while this legislation, which will impact on their future, is being shaped”.

The young people’s evidence could lead to changes (amendments) being made to the Bill. After reviewing all the evidence, the Environment Committee will produce a report on the Bill which will be debated in the Assembly Chamber at the next stage of the law-making process.

We will keep you informed about the progress of this Bill.

For further information, including a link to the actual Bill, go to http://www.niassembly.gov.uk/Assembly-Business/Committees/Environment/Marine-Bill-Committee-Stage/