Ulster Wildlife
The benefits of community-led conservation

Author: Dave Wall

Location: Northern Ireland

Ulster Wildlife is Northern Ireland’s largest local conservation charity and has been a champion of the environment for over 30 years. The Community Engagement and Voluntary Marine Conservation Areas Project, funded by the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, is working with communities and stakeholders in five focus areas to promote marine awareness and ocean literacy, to improve local knowledge of marine biodiversity and habitats, to involve local communities in citizen science programmes, and to encourage community-led voluntary marine conservation initiatives.

The goal of Ulster Wildlife’s Living Seas strategy is to achieve seas where wildlife thrives from the depths of the ocean to the coastal shallows. Ulster Wildlife works towards a healthy, productive and wildlife-rich future for our Living Seas through four themes: Marine Protected Areas and wildlife, fishing and seafood, marine planning and sustainable development, and legislation and policy.

We engage with coastal communities through activities, events, citizen science projects and education. We work with local partners to run marine awareness raising activities such as snorkel safaris, rockpool rambles, coastal foraging events, and beach cleans.

At coastal festivals and events we host information stands with our Marinelife Pool, Ocean Giants models, Seashore Treasures and children’s arts and crafts. We also deliver talks on marine biodiversity specific to each locality.

Our project promotes marine data collection by local volunteers through citizen science projects such as IWDG constant effort surveys for marine mammals, Shore Thing intertidal biodiversity surveys, Coastwatch eco-audits and Seasearch diving surveys.

We are working to achieve community-led voluntary marine conservation areas with practical measures such as best practice guidelines (e.g. WiSe marine wildlife watching), litter monitoring and control, community-led marine awareness initiatives (such as beach rangers) and the sustainable use of local marine resources.

Click here to watch a video.