Dublin Bay habitat conservation area welcomed
Designation will protect harbour porpoises, says Irish Whale and Dolphin Group
Tom Cassidy, Raheny, Dublin, with a newborn harbour porpoise at Portmarnock, Dublin, last month. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times
Designating Dublin Bay as a special area of conservation (SAC) will protect Ireland’s highest density of harbour porpoises, the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) has told Minister for Heritage Jimmy Deenihan.
The group, which welcomed Mr Deenihan on board its research vessel, the former Charlie Haughey-owned Celtic Mist, in Dún Laoghaire on Tuesday, said it was in favour of the proposed SAC from Rockabill to Dalkey Island.
The 27,000-hectare sea area is one of six such marine designations earmarked by Mr Deenihan under the EU Habitats Directive.
The others are the Blackwater bank off Co Wexford; the west Connacht coast; Hempton’s turbot bank off the north Donegal coast; the Porcupine bank canyon; and the southeast Rockall bank.
Mr Deenihan was in Dún Laoghaire to mark publication of the IWDG’s new atlas of marine mammals in Irish offshore waters.
The atlas of 16 species of whales, dolphins, seals and other mammals from 2005 to 2011 was compiled from research collected by IWDG observers who spent over 1,000 days at sea and 5,000 hours of survey effort over a period of six years.
The IWDG says the maps are essential in monitoring the status of cetaceans (marine mammals) in Irish waters, which are a designated whale and dolphin sanctuary. The information will also help to inform environmental and strategic impact assessments, it says.
Two years ago, the IWDG was donated the Celtic Mist ketch by the Haughey family, and it has been restored as a research vessel. It is currently being used to conduct surveys and train IWDG members and volunteers in Irish waters.