Celebrating World Oceans Day

World Oceans Day, celebrated on June 8, is an opportunity to highlight the importance of the marine environment that has been taken up with enthusiasm in east Antrim. In 2012, events held on this date included a Whale Watch organised with Ian Enlander of Northern Ireland Environment Agency at Portmuck, Islandmagee, and a children’s environmental art project at Ballygally.

Islandmagee has a beautiful coastline that is well worth exploring and one of the gems is Portmuck, a small harbour accessed via a steep, twisting road that ends at the harbour car park. From the seashore, a path leads up a flight of steps to a headland were there are spectacular views over the North Channel to the Maidens and, on a clear day, parts of the west coast of Scotland. Muck Island, famous for its seabird colony, lies close by. This is also an excellent vantage point to spot cetaceans, in particular dolphin and harbour porpoise, and although none were seen on the Oceans Day event in 2012, the enthusiastic group that gathered were delighted with views of birds including cormorant, shag, gulls, guillemot and fulmar. A few weeks later the Biodiversity Officer received excited phone calls that a pod of dolphin had been seen near Larne, and subsequently spotted close to the shore at Glenarm and at Whitehead.

The new community hall at Ballygally, which overlooks the sandy bay and coast road, was the venue for another activity to highlight World Oceans Day, a children’s art event organised with local artist Rosalind Fair. Local children explored the coastal environment, identifying limpets, crabs, jellyfish, seaweed, gulls and seals and, using papier-mâché, plastic cartons and cardboard, made images of the varied wildlife. The artwork was then painted and fixed onto display boards with an illustration of the beach and castle at Ballygally. The finished artwork was launched at the community hall, and a class of children from Carncastle Primary School joined in, creating willow fish sculptures and making drawings of marine life. Parents were invited and the proceedings were officially opened by the Mayor of Larne Borough Council.