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Monday 18 December 2017

Gormley limits use of jet skis, quad bikes

Edel Kennedy and Anne Lucey

Environment Minister John Gormley has moved to restrict the use of quad bikes and jet skis in areas where they can cause serious damage to the environment and wildlife.

Mr Gormley signed off the new regulations under the European Communities Act on Friday and the use of the machines will be banned in some areas from the end of the summer.

The move comes after the European Court found in 2007 that Ireland had not dealt with the problem of the damage being caused by such unrestricted recreational activities and Ireland faces fines from the court unless it deals properly with the problem.

"The types of damage that can be caused include the destruction of upland vegetation leading to erosion, the disturbance of ground-nesting birds and destruction of their nests, the swamping of the nests of water birds by powerboats and jet skis, and damage to sand-dune systems leading to blowouts and loss of dunes," a government spokesman said.

The new regulations will allow the minister to restrict activities in particular areas if species or wildlife areas are put in danger by their use. It will not allow the minister to order restrictions on the basis of noise or safety -- but this can already be done by county councils under local by-laws.

Farmers who use quad bikes will not be targeted and landowners can object to any direction affecting their land.


"The object of these regulations is not to restrict people's legitimate enjoyment of outdoor recreational activities," said Mr Gormley. "Along with other European countries, Ireland has prioritised specified areas for the protection of nature, and in those areas, that must be our priority. Many people, indeed, find recreation in the enjoyment of undisturbed nature."

The move comes after a child and her father had a lucky escape when they were thrown from their jet ski off the coast of Kerry at the weekend, and the father became separated from the craft. Both were later rescued. Yesterday, rescuers praised the quick-thinking and composure of the 11-year-old girl who remained with her jet ski and managed to alert the emergency services. The incident occurred just south of Fenit harbour at around 8.30pm on Saturday.

The man and his daughter, who are believed to be from nearby Tralee, were on board the self-propelled two-seater jet ski when they were thrown into the water.

The two became separated but the child remained with the machine and extracted a mobile phone from a waterproof bag to dial 999 and alert the coastguard. A Fenit lifeboat spokesman praised the girl's "presence of mind" and also the fact that both she and her father were wearing life-jackets.

She had managed to keep her head despite being upset at being separated from her father, the spokesman added. Apart from the shock and the cold, neither the girl nor her father were injured.

Irish Independent

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