The shark circling at Stormont

Two hundred children from a dozen Belfast schools walked up the Stormont mile this morning behind a giant wicker basking shark.

It wasn't a piece of a performance art, but a protest in suppport of a new Marine Bill for Northern Ireland.

Environment Minister Alex Attwood greeted the children with a pledge to launch such a bill very soon. Engalnd, Scotland and Wales have had similar legislation since 2009.

Image copyright bbc
Image caption Two hundred children brought the giant wicker basking shark to Stormont

Campaigners say Northern Ireland needs to follow suit in order to extend protection not just to the basking shark, but to all manner of sponges, seals, fish and seabirds.

A few weeks back, Mr Attwood told Inside Politics he thought he could win the arguments over the benefits of national parks.

Now he is talking about creating marine conservation zones off the shores of Northern Ireland.


Over in Scotland, the ownership of the sea bed has been the subject of controversy.

The SNP demanding the transfer of the rights related to offshore wind farms and other projects from the Crown estate to the Scottish government.

Perhaps because Northern Ireland doesn't lay claim to any oil reserves, local nationalists have been rather slower to extend the battle for soveriegnty from the land to the sea.

Minister Attwood says the environment and enterprise departments already have adequate licensing regimes in place for local off shore wind farms.

However questioned about whether Stormont should lay claim to the sea, he says he wouldn't rule out anything so far as stretching the limits of devolution is concerned.

P.S. And if you want to see what a wicker basking shark looks like, watch Stormont Today at 2320 BST on Tuesday on BBC2.