A large swathe of ocean off the south west coast of Ireland including a significant portion of the Kerry coastline has been added to a list of ‘Hope Spots’ by a global marine conservation movement and this includes a significant portion of the Skellig Coast.
The Greater Skellig Coast stretches from Kenmare Bay in Co Kerry to Loop Head in Co Clare and covers an area of roughly 7,000km2 of Irish coastal waters, under their designation.
It is home to critically endangered sharks, globally important seabird colonies, and animals threatened with extinction which rely on these areas for breeding and feeding.
Mission Blue is led by legendary oceanographer Dr Sylvia Earle and now has a network of 148 Hope Spots across the globe. It aims to inspire public awareness, access and support for a worldwide network of Marine Protected Areas.
Hope Spots are special places that are scientifically identified as critical to the health of the ocean. Existing spots include the Galápagos Islands, the Great Barrier Reef, the Northwest Passage and parts of Antarctica. Some locations are already formally protected, while others still need defined protection.
The area has been championed by Fair Seas, a coalition of Ireland’s leading environmental non-governmental organisations and networks, with the support of Sea Synergy, a marine awareness and activity centre based in Kerry.
Fair Seas has been campaigning for the Government to designate a minimum of 30% of Irish waters as Marine Protected Areas (MPA) by 2030. The Greater Skellig Coast is one of 16 ‘Areas of Interest’ identified for possible MPA designation by the organisation.
Aoife O’Mahony from Fair Seas and Lucy Hunt have been named as champions of the Greater Skellig Coast Hope Spot by Mission Blue. Lucy Hunt of Sea Synergy says she hopes the designation will encourage people to release the importance of this area and work to protect it.
“We have so much to be proud of when it comes to our coast and the Wild Atlantic way, from the wildlife to the views. It’s important we do everything we can to preserve and where needed restore it … The Hope Spot designation confirms what we already knew in Co Kerry and Co Clare, that the ocean is critically important. It’s my wish that this designation will help inspire people to take a closer look at what the ocean offers and that we will see more Hope Spots and action to live in harmony with Ireland's ocean.”
Minister for Tourism, Catherine Martin has also welcomed the designation and says it will be taken into account when developing a new national tourism policy.
“Announcements like this are also timely as we are currently developing a new national tourism policy. This new policy will seek to support sustainable economic development in communities throughout the country, whilst protecting our environment and natural resources.”