Environment Minister Mark H Durkan has opened consultation on the possibility of four new Marine Conservation Zones.
His proposed areas are Rathlin, Waterfoot [on the Causeway Coastal Route in Co Antrim], Outer Belfast Lough and Carlingford Lough.
In calling on the public to voice their views on the issues, Mr Durkan said: “Marine Conservation Zones conserve the diversity of rare and threatened habitats and species in our waters.
“Designating Marine Conservation Zones will be an important step towards protecting and enhancing the biodiversity of our seas, helping protect important marine habitats and species.
“As well as protecting nationally important marine wildlife, the zones will also protect geological features in these waters.
“We all have a stake in preserving and protecting our marine environment for future generations so I urge people to let us know their views on these proposed sites and species.”
The consultation will be open until March 11, 2016 and can be accessed at: www.doeni.gov.uk/consultations.