Managing visitor numbers to the Skelligs

 

Sir, – I refer to Colette Cummins’s letter (August 4th) in relation to visitors to Skellig Michael.

The Office of Public Works (OPW) takes its stewardship of this heritage treasure that is Skellig Michael very seriously.

The relative fragility of this island and the potential for harm to be caused to fabric and the natural environment from overuse by visitors is something that the Office of Public Works has been conscious of for many years.

This is specifically addressed in our long-standing management regime for the island which covers strict limitations on the number of permits to land on the island, visitor numbers and the duration of the visitor season.

With the agreement and approval of UNESCO, OPW commissioned a carrying capacity study in 2013 to better understand the sustainable conservation limits and patterns for Skellig Michael.

This study examined the entire approach in relation to access policies and studied the impacts from visitors on historic fabric elements, flora and fauna, etc., and considered such issues as the timing of arrivals and the management of the visitor flows. This study now forms part of our strategic approach to the management of the island.

The awareness of Skellig Michael among the public has developed and we have certainly become conscious of an increase in interest. However, we have deliberately kept the boat limit within the sustainable maximum of 15 vessels per day and left other capacity constraints unchanged.

I would like to reassure your readers that the OPW will not permit visitor numbers to exceed the carrying capacity beyond that which the island can sustain. – Yours, etc,

JOHN McMAHON,

Commissioner,

OPW,

Trim,

Co Meath.