Anna Lo MLA said: “Northern Ireland’s seas contain a rich biodiversity and a wide variety of habitats – it is vitally important that we protect our seas so that these species and habitats can continue to exist. Our seas are also essential to the economy of Northern Ireland, particularly in regards to fisheries and tourism. Yet our activities – both on a global and local level, pose direct threats to our seas and it is imperative that we have strong and effective legislation to ensure our marine environment is well planned and managed.
“While the Marine Bill sets out to address environmental protection, there is no overarching core aim to achieve sustainable development of our seas.
“The amendment I proposed requires the department to act in the way it considers best calculated to contribute to the achievement of sustainable development, including the protection and enhancement of the marine environment. This amendment recognises that though not always practicable in all circumstances, it requires that the Department pays regard to any strategy or guidance relating to sustainable development issued by the department when carrying out all its functions. The aim of achieving sustainable development should underpin all the actions of the department.
“The intention of this amendment is not to place any additional duty upon the department – or to ‘over- legislate’ but without clearly naming sustainable development as its core aim, I believe the bill lacks its soul. It is therefore essential that this core duty of sustainable development is highlighted in the bill.
“Sustainable development does not seek to stop us from growing our economy – rather it aims to put in place a balance of economic, social and environmental measures to ensure we continue to do things effectively in the years to come. It aims to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.“