Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Minister Edwin Poots has visited Rathlin Island to see its wide variety of seabirds and hear of the island’s ambitious plans to become carbon neutral.
During his visit, Mr Poots met with representatives from the Rathlin Development and Community Association, which has been exploring a number of renewable energy options.
The association is a partner in the Clean Energy for EU islands project, which aims to provide a long-term framework to help islands generate their own sustainable, low cost energy – resulting in reduced energy costs and greatly increased production of renewable energy; better energy security for islands, which will be less reliant on imports; improved air quality, lower greenhouse gas emissions, and less impact on islands’ natural environments, as well as the creation of new jobs and business opportunities, boosting the islands’ economic self-sufficiency.
Mr Poots said: “I am delighted to visit Rathlin and meet with the local community. I admire Rathlin’s strong ambition to reduce emissions and become carbon neutral, this is aligned to my vision for Green Growth and climate action and I very much welcome the island’s efforts to realise this goal.”
Rathlin Island is also Northern Ireland’s most important seabird colony and in summer the sea cliffs and sea stacks provide nesting sites for a variety of seabirds, including nationally important colonies of guillemot, razorbill and kittiwake.
Northern Ireland’s largest populations of puffin also breed among the grassy slopes of the cliff ledges.
During his visit the Minister enjoyed a boat trip to observe the puffins and other iconic seabirds at their nesting site.
The protected breeding seabird colonies are considered to be at risk due to a number of external factors, including milder winters and the lower availability of small fish.
Much of Rathlin Island and the seas around it are protected areas and while this restricts some activities, the Rathlin community is keen to recognise that the development and promotion of Rathlin tourism and environmental products is key to growth of the island economy.
Mr Poots said: “I recognise the issues that Rathlin faces, both from external and internal factors, and I remain committed to working with the local community, RSPB and other partners to deliver collaborative community led-projects that provide long term protection for the island’s seabirds and, importantly, supports community recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.
“My department has provided funding of £38,000 over the past year for environmental activities on Rathlin, including £8,000 to RSPB for a community engagement officer and £30,000 to Causeway Coastal and Glens Heritage Trust to develop a seabird recovery project for the island.
“This funding has enabled them to work with the Rathlin community on the development of projects to protect and restore seabird populations on the island.
“It has also enabled Causeway Coast and Glens Heritage Trust to work with Rathlin farmers on other environmental projects, including the management of geese on farmlands.”
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