Sea Deep will champion the endangered shark, skate and ray species found within our local seas. By working with recreational sea users, schools and local communities, Sea Deep will create opportunities for people to actively contribute to species conservation in Northern Ireland. Ultimately, the aim for this is a step-change in people’s understanding of our hidden marine natural heritage. Engagement work will provide training and create leadership roles within local communities so a group of committed volunteers can continue to drive local conservation action after the project ends. Within four coastal schools, they will deliver an education programme that will bring our local seas to life, introduce marine conservation career options and engage students in the process to influence the protection and management of our seas.
Sharks, skates and rays are among the most vulnerable of all marine fish. They typically have long life spans and give birth to a small number of young, resulting in slow population growth rates with little capacity to recover from threats such as over-fishing, pollution or habitat destruction. Our waters are of key importance to many of these species, hosting critical spawning aggregations and juvenile nursery grounds. However, recent assessments have highlighted the severe decline in population numbers around Irish waters and many species are now classed as endangered or critically endangered (where the next stage is extinct in the wild). Throughout Northern Ireland, there is a low level of public awareness of the diverse wildlife and habitats in our seas and the conservation issues they face. Our seas are too often out of sight and out of mind. Securing healthy, productive seas into the future and achieving new protection measures for our shark, skate and ray species will need to be done with local residents at the heart of the action.