#MARINE WILDLIFE - The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) has called for the extension of Ireland's pioneering whale and dolphin sanctuary throughout European coastal waters.
As the Clare Herald reports, the move comes on the 21st anniversary of the declaration of Irish waters as a sanctuary for cetaceans by then Taoiseach Charles Haughey - whose family gifted his yacht Celtic Mist to the IWDG to assist in its marine wildlife conservation work.
"The sanctuary declaration was unique in Europe and no EU member state had made such an unequivocal statement about the importance of their waters for cetaceans," said the IWDG's Brendan Price.
The sanctuary extends up to 200 nautical miles offshore, covering the Irish Exclusive Economic Zone, and in the two decades since its founding has prompted a greater awareness of and interest in the whales and dolphins that populate Ireland's waters.
The declaration "led to a clearer understanding of the responsibility Ireland had to cetaceans and their habitat including in offshore waters," added Price. "The sanctuary declaration was a precursor to action leading to protection in Irish waters and thus the IWDG considers the sanctuary declaration a success."
Price went on to outline the IWDG's vision for extending this sanctuary throughout European waters.
"There are a number of small marine protected areas in Europe for cetaceans, including harbour porpoise and bottlenose dolphins, and some international sanctuaries such as the Pelagos Sanctuary in the Mediterranean.
"These areas all have important roles to play but cetaceans are mobile marine species and travel large distances. Also, to gain public support for cetacean conservation it may require a larger, more simple concept."
The group intends to promote its proposals within the continent "and encourage like-minded people and organisations to lobby their own government to make such a clear and unequivocal statement on cetacean conservation".