Terminal expansion at Ringaskiddy, Co Cork ‘could put marine mammals at risk’

Oral hearing told proposed development could endanger seals

Seals use waters of Cork harbour as a feeding area. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Seals use waters of Cork harbour as a feeding area. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

A proposed terminal expansion development at Ringaskiddy, Co Cork, could put marine mammals at risk, an oral hearing at the Cork International Airport Hotel heard yesterday.

Marine ecologist Gerard Morgan said results from a study carried out at UCC on the haul-out behaviour of harbour seals in southwest Ireland in recent years suggests that harbour seals spend up to 80 per cent of their time at sea.

“Moreover, it appears that they are local foragers, as over half of the foraging trips were within 5km of the haul-out sites. Considerations of this, as well as their localised foraging range, indicates that they are the marine mammal species most at risk to potential impacts from the proposed redevelopment.”

Most vulnerable

The hearing was told the seals are the most vulnerable at their terrestrial haul-out sites during breeding and moulting periods between September and March in Ireland. However, there are no known breeding colonies of grey seals in Cork harbour.

Mr Morgan said, nonetheless, grey seals using the waters of Cork harbour for foraging and/or navigation could potentially be affected by the proposed work.

“Based on existing information the authors’ familiarity with the study area and the results of a site visit and survey, it is concluded that the probability of cetaceans (ie, whales, dolphins or porpoises) using the waters of Ringaskiddy basin is low, however, there is a higher probability of individual seals (grey and harbour seals) occasionally using the basin waters.”

James McCrory of RPS Consultants told the hearing that the proposed development would not have any significant negative effects upon the flora, habitats and fauna of Ringaskiddy or the birds compromising the key species of Cork harbour.

The chartered ecologist said terrestrial habitats to be lost and replaced with buildings as part of the redevelopment are considered to be of low or negligible ecological value in a local context.

Increased traffic

Raymond Holbeach, regional director of RPS, said the construction phase will have associated activities including an increase in traffic (mainly HGV). “The increase in traffic will mainly impact the residents of Ringaskiddy on the west side of the village,” he said.

The hearing continues next week.