Nature, Land & Sea

Rathlin Island's dynamic coast and seas

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The excellent introductory leaflet about the rich marine biodiversity around Rathlin Island, produced by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in association with the Rathlin Development & Community Association.

The nature of Rathlin and its townlands

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An exciting leaflet (large file size PDF) and page (less image heavy) on this website introducing the island's Local Biodiversity Action Plan developed by the Rathlin Development & Community Association and funded by the NGO Challenge Fund 2015.

Rathlin Island European Marine Site & Environment Forum


The European Marine Site Management Scheme document (large file size PDF).

Rathlin Island is recognised world-wide for its remarkable wildlife and landscape. Its environment is also of immense value to the people who live and work here and who visit the Island for recreation.

In 2013, following consultation with the resident community and a number of governmental and non-governmental organisations a Management Scheme for the Rathlin Island European Marine Site (EMS) was published.

“...'European Marine Site' (EMS) is a descriptive term that refers to those marine areas of both Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs), which are protected under the EC Habitats and Birds Directives (natural habitats & wild birds). SACs and SPAs are designated to protect the most seriously threatened species and habitats across Europe.” (EMS-MS)

The scheme is not a statutory instrument but a voluntary agreement between the relevant statutory agencies and the local communities who live and work in the area.

Membership of the Rathlin Island EMS-MG Management Group includes:

* Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) Marine & Fisheries (Chair and secretariat on EMS-MG)
* DAERA Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA)
* Department for Infrastructure (DfI)
* Maritime and Coastguard Agency, including HM Coastguard
* Causeway Coast & Glens Borough Council, including Ballycastle Marina Harbour Master
* North Coast Lobster Fishermen's Association
* Rathlin Development & Community Association (RDCA)
* Rathlin Island Ferry Ltd
* Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB)
* Ulster Wildlife
* Causeway Coast & Glens Heritage Trust (CCGHT)

Other organisations may be invited to attend meetings where they may have a particular interest in the agenda. The group oversees the implementation of actions in the Management Scheme. Minutes of the meetings are available here: 1st November 2013, 10th November 2014, 20th April 2015, 16th October 2015, 4th February 2016, 31st May 2016, 25th October 2016, 8th May 2017, 22nd November 2017, 7th June 2018, 18th January 2019.

The key aims of this Management Scheme are:

1. To protect the features of interest for which Rathlin Island SAC/SPA qualified as a Natura 2000 site.
2. To minimise disruption to other interests in the area.
3. To promote public awareness of the marine conservation interest of the area.
4. To promote sustainable development that is consistent with the maintenance of the European Marine Site.

Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty


The Antrim Coast & Glens Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) was designated in 1988 under the Nature Conservation and Amenity Lands (NI) Order. It includes Rathlin Island, the Glens of Antrim and the coastal area between Larne and Ballycastle. There is no doubt this area contains some of the most beautiful and varied scenery in Northern Ireland. The Antrim Coast & Glens AONB is managed by the Causeway Coast & Glens Heritage Trust, a public/private/voluntary sector partnership devoted to promoting and enhancing the unique heritage of the Causeway Coast and Glens area. The RDCA is a member of the AONB management group. There are eight AONBs across Northern Ireland.

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