EU warns Ireland on threat to bogs and beach quality
Ireland's bogs continue to deteriorate due to continued peat harvesting, the European Commission has warned.
All bogs, mires and fen habitats have an "unfavourable" conservation status, despite the introduction of a ban on turf-cutting.
And the Commission has also warned that one in 20 bathing sites are of "poor" quality, and are failing to meet minimum standards for water quality.
It said that across Europe, just under 2pc of bathing sites failed to meet the Bathing Water Directive's minimum standards for water quality and were rated "poor".
The highest numbers of sites with poor quality were found in Italy (107 bathing sites, or 2pc of the total), France (105 sites, 3pc) and Spain (67 sites, 3pc). Seven in Ireland, or 5pc of the total, failed to meet the standards. They are Ardmore in Waterford, Ballyloughane and Clifden (both in Galway), Duncannon (Wexford), Rush South Beach (Fingal), Lilliput (Westmeath) and Youghal Front Strand in Cork.
Separately, the 'State of Nature in the EU' report says that all of Ireland's wetlands have an unfavourable conservation status and are continuing to deteriorate.
Data collected between 2007 and 2012 says that overall, 51pc of all wetland habitats across the bloc have an "unfavourable" status.
The report notes: "In Ireland, all bogs, mires, fens habitat types have an unfavourable conservation status and bogs continue to deteriorate due to peat extraction and drainage".
As many as two-thirds of all wetlands habitats were lost between 1900 and the mid-1980s through a combination of land use change, infrastructural developments and expansion of towns and cities.
It has resulted in some 15pc of bird species being classed as "near threatened, declining or depleted" and another 17pc as "threatened".
While targeted actions have yielded successes, including the recovery of the Great Bustard and several species of birds of prey, a "much greater effort" is needed.
"This report is significant and timely", EU Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella said.
"While it shows a mixed picture overall, it clearly demonstrates that efforts to improve vulnerable ecosystems can be highly effective. It also underlines the scale of the challenges that remain," he added.