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COVID-19’s impact on visits to offshore islands may be benefiting the gannet seabird colony on Wexford’s Great Saltee.

A new University College Cork (UCC) study has recorded the level of disturbance to the birds caused by tourists in the summer of 2017.

Great Saltee does not have a warden, and many tourists unwittingly cause a disturbance, leading to parents leaving their nests temporarily, exposing them to predators who quickly seize the opportunity and steal the gannets’ one and only egg, the report says.

Gannet colony on the Great Saltee Islands off the County Wexford coastGannet colony on the Great Saltee Islands off the County Wexford coast

Many tourists, especially those looking for that perfect photograph of birds on their nests, got too close to the gannets, often to within less than one metre.

This led to a 60% reduction in breeding success compared with birds at undisturbed parts of the colony, according to Debs Allbrook, a UCC masters in science student.

“On one occasion we saw nine disturbance events over a two-hour period. This directly led to eggs from nine gannet nests being stolen by herring gulls, who seem to have learned to watch the interactions between tourists and people,” she said,

“ One photographer ran right through the colony trying to retrieve his camera lens rolling downhill, leading to disturbance of about 30 nests,” she said.

As part of her research, Debs Allbrook tested to see if tourists would pay attention to an information sign warning them that their actions could be damaging.

The sign said: “These birds are breeding. Under the Wildlife Act (1976) it is illegal to disturb nesting birds. Please do not approach the colony as doing so may result in the abandonment of eggs or the death of chicks. Thank you for your consideration.”

The vast majority of people paid attention to the sign. People stayed away from the birds and fewer disturbance events were observed.

“This showed that it was largely lack of knowledge that led to the disturbance in the first place. People did not understand the harm they were causing,” she noted.

“The disturbance often caused confusion in the colony and it only took a second for a gull to zip in and steal an egg,” she said.

The full publication can be accessed now online here

Published in Marine Science

About Dublin Port 

Dublin Port Company is currently investing about €277 million on its Alexandra Basin Redevelopment (ABR), which is due to be complete by 2021. The redevelopment will improve the port's capacity for large ships by deepening and lengthening 3km of its 7km of berths. The ABR is part of a €1bn capital programme up to 2028, which will also include initial work on the Dublin Port’s MP2 Project - a major capital development project proposal for works within the existing port lands in the northeastern part of the port.

Dublin Port has also recently secured planning approval for the development of the next phase of its inland port near Dublin Airport. The latest stage of the inland port will include a site with the capacity to store more than 2,000 shipping containers and infrastructures such as an ESB substation, an office building and gantry crane.

Dublin Port Company recently submitted a planning application for a €320 million project that aims to provide significant additional capacity at the facility within the port in order to cope with increases in trade up to 2040. The scheme will see a new roll-on/roll-off jetty built to handle ferries of up to 240 metres in length, as well as the redevelopment of an oil berth into a deep-water container berth.

Dublin Port FAQ

Dublin was little more than a monastic settlement until the Norse invasion in the 8th and 9th centuries when they selected the Liffey Estuary as their point of entry to the country as it provided relatively easy access to the central plains of Ireland. Trading with England and Europe followed which required port facilities, so the development of Dublin Port is inextricably linked to the development of Dublin City, so it is fair to say the origins of the Port go back over one thousand years. As a result, the modern organisation Dublin Port has a long and remarkable history, dating back over 300 years from 1707.

The original Port of Dublin was situated upriver, a few miles from its current location near the modern Civic Offices at Wood Quay and close to Christchurch Cathedral. The Port remained close to that area until the new Custom House opened in the 1790s. In medieval times Dublin shipped cattle hides to Britain and the continent, and the returning ships carried wine, pottery and other goods.

510 acres. The modern Dublin Port is located either side of the River Liffey, out to its mouth. On the north side of the river, the central part (205 hectares or 510 acres) of the Port lies at the end of East Wall and North Wall, from Alexandra Quay.

Dublin Port Company is a State-owned commercial company responsible for operating and developing Dublin Port.

Dublin Port Company is a self-financing, and profitable private limited company wholly-owned by the State, whose business is to manage Dublin Port, Ireland's premier Port. Established as a corporate entity in 1997, Dublin Port Company is responsible for the management, control, operation and development of the Port.

Captain William Bligh (of Mutiny of the Bounty fame) was a visitor to Dublin in 1800, and his visit to the capital had a lasting effect on the Port. Bligh's study of the currents in Dublin Bay provided the basis for the construction of the North Wall. This undertaking led to the growth of Bull Island to its present size.

Yes. Dublin Port is the largest freight and passenger port in Ireland. It handles almost 50% of all trade in the Republic of Ireland.

All cargo handling activities being carried out by private sector companies operating in intensely competitive markets within the Port. Dublin Port Company provides world-class facilities, services, accommodation and lands in the harbour for ships, goods and passengers.

Eamonn O'Reilly is the Dublin Port Chief Executive.

Capt. Michael McKenna is the Dublin Port Harbour Master

In 2019, 1,949,229 people came through the Port.

In 2019, there were 158 cruise liner visits.

In 2019, 9.4 million gross tonnes of exports were handled by Dublin Port.

In 2019, there were 7,898 ship arrivals.

In 2019, there was a gross tonnage of 38.1 million.

In 2019, there were 559,506 tourist vehicles.

There were 98,897 lorries in 2019

Boats can navigate the River Liffey into Dublin by using the navigational guidelines. Find the guidelines on this page here.

VHF channel 12. Commercial vessels using Dublin Port or Dun Laoghaire Port typically have a qualified pilot or certified master with proven local knowledge on board. They "listen out" on VHF channel 12 when in Dublin Port's jurisdiction.

A Dublin Bay webcam showing the south of the Bay at Dun Laoghaire and a distant view of Dublin Port Shipping is here
Dublin Port is creating a distributed museum on its lands in Dublin City.
 A Liffey Tolka Project cycle and pedestrian way is the key to link the elements of this distributed museum together.  The distributed museum starts at the Diving Bell and, over the course of 6.3km, will give Dubliners a real sense of the City, the Port and the Bay.  For visitors, it will be a unique eye-opening stroll and vista through and alongside one of Europe’s busiest ports:  Diving Bell along Sir John Rogerson’s Quay over the Samuel Beckett Bridge, past the Scherzer Bridge and down the North Wall Quay campshire to Berth 18 - 1.2 km.   Liffey Tolka Project - Tree-lined pedestrian and cycle route between the River Liffey and the Tolka Estuary - 1.4 km with a 300-metre spur along Alexandra Road to The Pumphouse (to be completed by Q1 2021) and another 200 metres to The Flour Mill.   Tolka Estuary Greenway - Construction of Phase 1 (1.9 km) starts in December 2020 and will be completed by Spring 2022.  Phase 2 (1.3 km) will be delivered within the following five years.  The Pumphouse is a heritage zone being created as part of the Alexandra Basin Redevelopment Project.  The first phase of 1.6 acres will be completed in early 2021 and will include historical port equipment and buildings and a large open space for exhibitions and performances.  It will be expanded in a subsequent phase to incorporate the Victorian Graving Dock No. 1 which will be excavated and revealed. 
 The largest component of the distributed museum will be The Flour Mill.  This involves the redevelopment of the former Odlums Flour Mill on Alexandra Road based on a masterplan completed by Grafton Architects to provide a mix of port operational uses, a National Maritime Archive, two 300 seat performance venues, working and studio spaces for artists and exhibition spaces.   The Flour Mill will be developed in stages over the remaining twenty years of Masterplan 2040 alongside major port infrastructure projects.

Source: Dublin Port Company ©Afloat 2020. 

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