Carrickfergus think tank on future of endangered species

Pupils from Ulidia Integrated College in Carrickfergus with  James Rainey, Nature Skills trainee with Ulster Wildlife. INCT 29 791-CON
Pupils from Ulidia Integrated College in Carrickfergus with James Rainey, Nature Skills trainee with Ulster Wildlife. INCT 29 791-CON

Budding marine biologists from Carrickfergus have been designing management plans to help one of Northern Ireland’s most endangered species.

Ulidia Integrated College pupils put forward their ideas on saving the flapper skate (formerly known as common skate) after teaming up with James Rainey, Nature Skills Ttainee with Ulster Wildlife.

During Green Day, the young people found out more about the amazing variety of underwater habitats in our local seas and the hundreds of creatures which thrive there.

A marine tank full of freshly stocked shoreline creatures, collected from just outside Carrickfergus, enabled them to get up close with crabs, starfish, periwinkles, barnacles and sea slugs and develop a hands-on appreciation of their behaviours, feeding strategies and life cycles.

James said, “No matter where you live in Northern Ireland, you are never more than 35 miles from the seas, yet many of us are unaware of what actually lives there. We hope that by delivering education sessions like this one to schools, we can help bring our underwater world to life and encourage children to develop a sense of ownership for our amazing living seas.”

Some of the ideas suggested included creating skate sanctuaries (where types of fishing that have caused skate declines are prohibited), starting a captive breeding program, restricting commercial fishing to certain times of the day and year, and funding further research into the flapper skate.

James, who was impressed with the student’s ideas, added: “By considering every known aspect of the flapper skate lifecycle, students were able to come up with plans that rivalled those of professional marine biologists.”

James is one of six trainees with Ulster Wildlife who are putting their new skills and experience into practice, thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund ‘Skills for the Future’ programme. The one-year paid traineeships provide work experience, as well as accredited training in nature conservation, to help a wide range of people secure a future career protecting nature, on land or at sea.

To find out more visit www.ulsterwildlife.org