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Coastwatch Calls for Seagrass Habitats to be Specified in New Marine Planning Legislation

30th August 2021
Officials and volunteers at Kilmore Quay, Co Wexford at a meadow of seagrass Zostera marina from left: Austrian Ambassador HE Dr Thomas Nader has just seen his first Irish seagrass meadow. To his right: Tom Enright, Chief Executive Wexford CoCo, daughter Ashling and Cllr Lisa Mc Donald (in a wetsuit) to his left Conor McCabe PO Marine Planning DHLGH. In the background are Richard Simpson, Sinead Brennan RTE and Karin Dubsky
Officials and volunteers at Kilmore Quay, Co Wexford at a meadow of seagrass Zostera marina from left: Austrian Ambassador HE Dr Thomas Nader has just seen his first Irish seagrass meadow. To his right: Tom Enright, Chief Executive Wexford CoCo, daughter Ashling and Cllr Lisa Mc Donald (in a wetsuit) to his left Conor McCabe PO Marine Planning DHLGH. In the background are Richard Simpson, Sinead Brennan RTE and Karin Dubsky Credit: Paul Dubsky

Environmental group Coastwatch has called on the Government to specify protection of seagrass beds in new maritime planning legislation.

As The Times Ireland reports, seagrass or Zostera marina is the inshore equivalent of coral reefs or tropical rainforests in nurturing habitats for diverse species.

Seagrass also helps to filter sediments and keep shorelines stable, but a number of such areas in Irish inshore waters are threatened by an invasive species known as “wire weed” or Sargassum muticum.

“These are some of our most valuable blue carbon habitats”, Coastwatch coordinator and marine biologist Karin Dubsky explained at an event held in Co Wexford last week to highlight the issue.

Coastwatch had invited key Government officials and Austrian ambassador to Ireland Dr Thomas Nade to view a seagrass meadow at St Patrick’s Bridge near Kilmore Quay, Co Wexford.

Seagrass beds in Bantry Bay, Co Cork and at Fenit in Tralee Bay, Co Kerry are also at risk of the invasive species, which is at its most dense in May and June.

The new Maritime Area Planning Bill is geared to ensure the regulated development of offshore wind farms but gives local authorities a role in managing inshore coastal areas.

By specifying certain habitats requiring protection, this would empower local authorities to protect seagrass and to remove invasive species like Sargassum muticum, Dubsky said.

The Maritime Area Planning Bill is being progressed ahead of separate legislation on marine protected areas, and this latter legislation could take some years, she said.

“There is huge potential to get things right, but also a huge potential to miss the boat as there is so much marine and coastal development now,” she said.

“We also need to think in terms of inter-county management- the Waterford estuary borders on five local authority areas,” she said.

“We also need to strengthen co-operation between the north and south,” she said.

“This is not a Bill to help the offshore renewable sector get what it needs – this is legislation for all of us, and we have to watch that there isn’t a shortcut,” she said.

Read The Times here

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Marine Wildlife Around Ireland One of the greatest memories of any day spent boating around the Irish coast is an encounter with marine wildlife.  It's a thrill for young and old to witness seabirds, seals, dolphins and whales right there in their own habitat. As boaters fortunate enough to have experienced it will testify even spotting a distant dorsal fin can be the highlight of any day afloat.  Was that a porpoise? Was it a whale? No matter how brief the glimpse it's a privilege to share the seas with Irish marine wildlife.

Thanks to the location of our beautiful little island, perched in the North Atlantic Ocean there appears to be no shortage of marine life to observe.

From whales to dolphins, seals, sharks and other ocean animals this page documents the most interesting accounts of marine wildlife around our shores. We're keen to receive your observations, your photos, links and youtube clips.

Boaters have a unique perspective and all those who go afloat, from inshore kayaking to offshore yacht racing that what they encounter can be of real value to specialist organisations such as the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) who compile a list of sightings and strandings. The IWDG knowledge base has increased over the past 21 years thanks in part at least to the observations of sailors, anglers, kayakers and boaters.

Thanks to the IWDG work we now know we share the seas with dozens of species who also call Ireland home. Here's the current list: Atlantic white-sided dolphin, beluga whale, blue whale, bottlenose dolphin, common dolphin, Cuvier's beaked whale, false killer whale, fin whale, Gervais' beaked whale, harbour porpoise, humpback whale, killer whale, minke whale, northern bottlenose whale, northern right whale, pilot whale, pygmy sperm whale, Risso's dolphin, sei whale, Sowerby's beaked whale, sperm whale, striped dolphin, True's beaked whale and white-beaked dolphin.

But as impressive as the species list is the IWDG believe there are still gaps in our knowledge. Next time you are out on the ocean waves keep a sharp look out!

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