Published Friday, 11 July 2014
An image of the damaged rocks on the north coast. (© UTV)
It is believed the stolen rocks contained hugely significant examples of ammonite fossils, a now extinct group related to squids.
Some geologists regard the rocks at Portrush as the single most important geological locality in the world.
The site, which is also an Area of Special Scientific Interest, is world-renowned for its role 200 years ago in understanding how certain types of rocks were formed.
The sedimentary rock dates back to the Jurassic age, but had been altered to look like basalt by the later development of the Portrush Sill, a huge mass of igneous rock that the town is now built on.
Environment Minister Mark H Durkan said that the reasons behind the theft are unclear - but the rock samples may have been taken for research purposes, for commercial sale or for a private collection.
"I am extremely annoyed at the thoughtlessness of the person or people who have damaged the Nature Reserve at Portrush.
"Their selfishness has spoiled the experience of other visitors to this important site, some of whom come from overseas specially to visit it. I expect members of the public to respect this Reserve and other aspects of our natural heritage and hope that anyone with information on this theft will contact the PSNI or Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA)."
Because of its historical importance Portrush National Nature Reserve has become a place of 'pilgrimage' for geologists and an important educational site for geology students.
Mark H Durkan, Environment Minister
"The damage caused by the thieves will mean that visitors to the Reserve will be hard-pressed to locate the fossils which made it famous. The professional geological community will be outraged at what has happened here."
He said: "The fossils themselves tend to be of poor quality and are of little commercial value. Their importance lies in the false impression that they gave of fossils in igneous rock."
The Minister said that the PSNI will be asked to investigate.
© UTV News