Malcolm Noonan TD, Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform, has announced details of a new protection area for birds. The area is to be protected under the EU Birds Directive and will cover over 230,000 hectares of marine waters, increasing the percentage of protected marine waters to over 9%. The new protected site, the North-West Irish Sea Special Protection Area (SPA), runs offshore along the coasts of counties Dublin, Meath and Louth, making it Ireland’s largest ever protected area for birds.
Minister Noonan stated:
“I am delighted that we have been able to realise a long-held ambition to extend and significantly improve the protections in place for our marine birds. This site, at more than 230,000 hectares, is the largest SPA designation for birds in Ireland’s history. We are working hard as a Government to ensure we have robust protections in place for nature as we work to deliver on our offshore renewable energy objectives. Biodiversity action and climate action must go hand in hand.”
Director General of the National Parks and Wildlife Service, Niall Ó Donnchú, welcomed the designation stating:
“This is a milestone day for the protection of Ireland’s marine biodiversity. The estuaries and bays that open into the North West Irish Sea, along with connecting coastal stretches of intertidal and shallow subtidal habitats, and the more pelagic waters further out to sea provide safe feeding and roosting habitats for a range of bird species including the seabirds that breed at colonies along our islands and coastal headlands. Ireland rightly has ambition and purpose to make a significant contribution to the targets set in the EU Biodiversity Strategy 2030. This new site is a determined step in that direction.”
The North-West Irish Sea site will be a Special Protection Area (SPA) under the EU Birds Directive, of special conservation interest for the following species:
Common Scoter; Red-throated Diver; Great Northern Diver; Fulmar; Manx Shearwater, Shag, Cormorant, Little Gull, Kittiwake, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Little Tern, Roseate Tern, Common Tern, Arctic Tern, Puffin, Razorbill and Guillemot.
The new site adjoins twelve existing SPAs already designated for the protection of birds along the coast. These are:
Lambay Island SPA, Skerries Island SPA, Ireland’s Eye SPA, Howth Head SPA; Rockabill SPA, South Dublin Bay and River Tolka Estuary SPA, Boyne Estuary SPA, River Nanny Estuary and Shore SPA, Rogerstown Estuary SPA, Malahide Estuary SPA, Baldoyle Bay SPA and North Bull Island SPA.