Nine days of events will celebrate the importance of the Ramsey Marine Nature Reserve.
The reserve was established five years ago by the Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture (DEFA), after a proposal from the Manx Fish Producers’ Organisation (MFPO) and an extensive consultation.
It is part of the OSPAR network of European Marine Protected Areas.
Covering 94 square kilometres, it contains internationally significant areas of eelgrass meadows, horse mussel reefs, kelp forests and maerl beds, which boost biodiversity and create an environment for commercially important species of fish, shellfish and crustaceans.
In addition to conservation zones, the reserve also includes an innovative Fisheries Management Zone which is co-managed by DEFA and the MFPO to allow carefully controlled fishing for king and queen scallops.
With the exception of angling and bait-digging at Port Lewaigue, which are controlled, the public can use the zone freely all year round for swimming, diving, snorkelling, angling, boating and other pursuits.
DEFA and the Manx Wildlife Trust (MWT) are organising activities from 9 to 17th July.
The week starts with a beach clean by Beach Buddies at the north end of the Ramsey beach on Saturday 9 July, 10am.
On Sunday 10 July, MWT will have a display, with rock pool specimens, at the Fun in the Park event at Mooragh Park.
A programme of talks by DEFA and MWT experts begins on Monday 11 July and runs for the rest of the week at different venues.
Among highlights of the celebrations will be the siting of 10 interpretation boards, which will be located between the Port of Ayre and Maughold Head.
Richard Ronan MHK, Minister for Environment, Food and Agriculture, will unveil the first of the boards on Tuesday 12 July.
On Saturday 16 July, there are events throughout Ramsey including children’s marine activity at St Paul’s Church hall from 10am to noon (book via firstname.lastname@example.org); marine story-time at Ramsey library at 11am and St Paul’s Bookshop from 2.30pm; a pavement art session for children outside St Paul’s Bookshop from 1pm-2pm; a guided walk from Ramsey Pier to Port Lewaigue at 3pm and tea, stalls and information in St Paul’s Hall all afternoon.
Sunday 17 July sees family rock-pooling on the beach from 3pm.
All week, Ramsey Heritage Centre will host an exhibition of marine-themed artwork by children, while the top floor of the town hall will be home to an exhibition of facts about the reserve.
Shop windows in the town will host a treasure hunt.
Activities will also take place in schools using specially prepared resources.
The Minister said:
‘Through these events, we hope to demonstrate the significance of the reserve, which many people don’t know about even though it’s right on their doorsteps.
‘The reserve is a great example of Government working with fishermen, conservationists and the wider community for the long term benefit of the Island.
‘The fishing industry is of vital economic importance to the Island and the work going on within the reserve to protect and manage scallop stocks is contributing the sustainability of the species off our shores.’
Fiona Gell, a scientist with the Fisheries Directorate of DEFA, is one of the organisers of the week.
She added: ‘Tynwald adopted DEFA’s strategy on biodiversity, Managing Our Natural Wealth, and the reserve is doing much to contribute to the Island’s biodiversity, particularly by protecting special seabed habitats like horse mussel reefs.
‘The existence of the reserve reinforces something UNESCO recognised when it admitted us to the World Network of Biosphere Reserves – that we are a special place where people and nature co-exist.’
Dawn Dickens, Biodiversity Officer with the MWT, said: ‘This is an exciting initiative, highlighting our fantastic marine biodiversity. We hope people of all ages will take part in educational and informative events that will bring greater awareness of the importance of the reserve.’
For the full programme of events, visit www.gov.im/rmnrweek2016, look out for posters or listen to media what’s on guides.