Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan TD, has announced details of Ireland’s largest ever protected area for birds.

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The new North-West Irish Sea Special Protection Area (SPA) is to be designated under the EU Birds Directive and will cover more than 230,000 hectares of important marine waters for a range of bird species throughout the year.

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It increases the percentage of Ireland’s marine waters which are protected under the EU Birds and Habitats Directives to over 9%.

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The new SPA adjoins twelve existing SPAs already designated along the coast in this area and the publication of detailed information and maps for the site brings certainty and clarity to a long-mooted proposal for protections for marine birds in this area.

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Speaking today, Minister Noonan said: 

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.

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Director General of the National Parks and Wildlife Service, Niall Ó Donnchú, said: 

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.

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The new North-west Irish Sea SPA extends offshore along the coasts of counties Louth, Meath and Dublin.

More detailed information about the site, including a map, a species list and a list of the Activities Requiring Consent (ARCs) for the site is available on www.npws.ie/protectedsites.

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In keeping with the Birds and Habitats Regulations 2011, following publication of the notice of intention to designate, any person with an interest in the proposed site may submit an objection or observation at the following email address: objections@npws.gov.ie.

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Objections or observations may only be based on scientific, ornithological grounds.

The new 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.

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