Relatively little work has been published on the incidence of antibiotic resistance (ABR) in the marine microbiological environment, which is of importance to animal (fish, mammals, birds) health, zoonotic transmission, distribution of ABR bacteria with oceanic drift, and ultimately human health. A study was performed to determine the diversity of total ABR (intrinsic and acquired resistance) in marine bacteria in shallow coastal waters surrounding Northern Ireland through the use of a novel Relative Resistance Index (RRI) as a surrogate marker for ecological change, particularly in comparing marine water in commercial versus non-commercial sites. Total antibiotic resistance was observed to varying degrees in all marine water specimens and specific resistance levels were as follows, in order of diminishing antibacterial effectiveness: fluoroquinolones > rifampicin > polymyxin > tetracycline > sulphamethoxazole/trimethoprim > third generation cephalosporin and streptomycin > carbapenem > macrolide > clindamycin > vancomycin > fucidic acid > penicillin. None of the sampling sites contained endogenous bacteria that were resistant to ciprofloxacin, while nearly all (19 of 20 sites; 95%) contained bacteria that were resistant to penicillin. Commercial sites had a higher mean RRI score of 6.57±3.58 than non-commercial sites (RRI = 4.08 ± 2.02), which was statistically significant (p = 0.037), indicating that bacteria isolated from seawater in commercial coastal harbors had a higher frequency of antibiotic resistance than non-commercial sources. This novel RRI marker may be useful in assessing ecological change in marine water environments. In conclusion, this study demonstrated that there can be a high level of total ABR (intrinsic and acquired) in bacterial populations in marine water environments, which are multi- and pan-resistant to up to 11 major classes of antibiotics simultaneously. Ecological studies are urgently needed to help define the fate of ABR marine bacteria in their natural environment and their ability to act as reservoirs and donors of ABR to pathogenic bacteria, many of which transiently inhabit the natural environment.