Rathlin Island

Site overview: As the name suggests, Rathlin Island is an island off the coast of County Antrim and is the northernmost point of Northern Ireland. It is home to around 145 people. This area has several types of protection, a Special Protection Area and a Special Area of Conservation. There is also a proposed Marine Conservation Zone. All are types of Marine Protected Area and are designed to protect different parts of this special place. This proposed MCZ aims to protect the wonderful deep-sea beds, submerged lagoons and sea arches found here, as well as the vulnerable black guillemot population. This island is one of the most important seabird breeding sites in the UK and Ireland and is home to a special population of black guillemots. The cliffs are an important nesting area which are rated as amber on the list of the Birds of Conservation Concern Ireland. The sea here reaches up to 250m deep, these waters are some of the deepest in the UK. This extremely rare habitat may contain fragile cold water coral reefs and support endangered fish such as common skate.
At risk: This site is not yet designated as a Marine Conservation Zone, which is a type of Marine Protected Area,but it should be. The government launched a consultation into this site, along with three others and are currently reviewing the responses. We urge them to designate this area as quickly as possible. Beneath the waves Seasearch, a nationwide scientifically trained network of scuba divers, dived the North wall in this site and compiled a report of their findings They noted that the North Wall is dominated by anthozoans and sponges. At the top of the Wall there is Kelp forest on the rock.

Designation Status
Last Updated
6 June 2017
MPA Type
Marine Conservation Zone in Northern Ireland
MPA Purpose


55° 19' 2" North,
6° 12' 45" West

Surface Area

78.22 km2
(30.20 mi.2 )

Iconic features protected by this site