IWDG call on government to designate a marine protected area for harbour porpoise

28th Oct 2012

The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group have called on the Irish government to designate a marine protected area for harbour porpoise off County Dublin. At the second All Ireland Mammal Symposium held in the Botanic Gardens, Dublin IWDG Executive Officer Dr Simon Berrow, who was a keynote speaker at the conference, presented data to show that densities of harbour porpoise off North County Dublin are the highest recorded to date in Ireland.


EU Member States are obliged to designate Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) to protect a representative range of habitat for harbour porpoise in their jurisdiction. To date the Irish government have designated two SACs for porpoise, both in the southwest. The IWDG welcome this but do not consider this reflects the full range of habitats for this species in Ireland. Harbour porpoise are found throughout Irish coastal waters but the highest densities have been recorded off North County Dublin.


Dr Berrow said that in 2009 the government committed to the EU to designate an SAC for harbour porpoise off the east coast but have still failed to implement this.  “We have written to the relevant Minister in two successive governments but are still waiting for them to fulfil their promise”.  We do not know what is blocking the designation as we are told that all the work has been completed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service “there are a lot of pressures on the coastal zone around Dublin Bay, from proposed drilling to the expansion of Dublin port, whether these issues are responsible for holding up the designation process we do not know, but the IWDG are tired of waiting”.


During his keynote talk he congratulated the National Parks and Wildlife Service for publishing a Conservation Plan for Irish Cetaceans and a National Cetacean Protection Strategy but called for better integration between research groups and collaboration with state agencies to ensure more efficient use of resources especially when delivering on national and EU obligations.


The second All Ireland Mammal Symposium


All Ireland Mammal Symposium 2012 will promote awareness of the conservation status of mammals on the island of Ireland and the importance of mammalian biodiversity and the need to protect their habitats on the island. The All Ireland Mammal Symposium 2012 will encourage growth in positive public attitudes to our mammalian wildlife heritage, continue to nurture long term links amongst state agencies and third level institutes, while allowing access for all those involved in mammal ecology and conservation in the wider community. The two day symposium was opened by Minister of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihan and featured 28 talks on a wide range of research and monitoring of Irelands mammals.


Harbour Porpoise


Harbour porpoises are Ireland’s smallest cetacean species with an average body length of 1.5m. The harbour porpoise is a common inshore species found around the entire Irish coast and can be observed from many headlands throughout the year. In offshore areas, harbour porpoises occur at highest densities in the Irish Sea and its northern and southern channels. The highest relative abundances were recorded in the western half of the central Irish Sea.  The 2005 SCANS II survey estimated a population of c.15,000 harbour porpoises in the Irish Sea. Harbour porpoise Survey Reports available on www.npws.ie


Dr Simon Berrow is founder member and current Executive Officer of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (www.iwdg.ie) and Project Manager of the Shannon Dolphin and Wildlife Foundation (www.shannondolphins.ie). He is also a full time lecturer at the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (www.gmit.ie) teaching on the Applied Marine and Freshwater Biology.

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