A large swathe of ocean off the south west coast of Ireland has been added to a list of ‘Hope Spots’ by the global marine conservation movement Mission Blue, led by legendary oceanographer Dr. Sylvia Earle. There are now 148 Hope Spots across the globe, which aim 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 Greater Skellig Coast stretches from Kenmare Bay in County Kerry to Loop Head in County Clare and covers an area of roughly 7,000km2 of Irish coastal waters. 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.
The area has been championed by Fair Seas with the local support of Sea Synergy, a marine awareness and activity centre based in Waterville, County Kerry.
We have 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 encompasses one of 16 ‘Areas of Interest’ that we have identified for possible MPA designation.
Mission Blue was founded by American oceanographer, explorer and author Dr Sylvia Earle. She has been National Geographic’s Explorer in Residence since 1998 and was named the first Hero for the Planet by Time Magazine. This Hope Spot and support from Mission Blue puts Ireland on the international map alongside 147 of the most important sights for marine conservation around the world.
Dr. Sylvia Earle, Founder of Mission Blue says, “This Hope Spot is being announced at a crucial time for Ireland because in 2023, new national Marine Protected Area (MPA) legislation will be introduced for the first time. 81% of Irish people believe that we need to protect, conserve and restore the ocean. This legislation will help achieve this very desirable protection.”
Aoife O’ Mahony, Campaign Manager for Fair Seas said, “It is incredible to see a small part of Ireland’s seas being recognised as critically important to global ocean health by Mission Blue, and joining the likes of the Galapágos Islands and other world-famous marine locations. The Hope Spot will help us to raise awareness and bring the public closer to the ocean as we work to safeguard the water and the marine life within. This global recognition is even more critical now as we finalise our own national MPA legislation in Ireland. We have one chance to do this right and we owe it to the next generation to do this well.”
If Marine Protected Areas are designated along with robust management and monitoring plans they can have enormous added benefits to coastal communities and local economies alongside the recovery of coastal ecosystems and increases in biodiversity.
Minister for Tourism, Catherine Martin added, “I welcome the news that a large area of ocean off the south west coast of Ireland has been added to a list of ‘Hope Spots’ by the global marine conservation movement, Mission Blue, which is led by legendary oceanographer Dr. Sylvia Earle. Our small island of Ireland is not only draped in a wealth of natural beauty but it is also surrounded by an ocean filled with an assortment of marine life and a coastline, which houses numerous colonies of birds and wildlife. This all contributes to the richness and attractiveness of Ireland as a destination for tourists and all of which needs to be preserved and protected. 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.”
As part of our film Fair Seas: The Kingdom of Kerry, we met with Lucy Hunt who has been championing ocean conservation in South Kerry for many years. Lucy is determined to help local people engage with and learn about the rich coastal waters right on their doorstep.
Lucy Hunt said, “I founded Sea Synergy in 2014 to help raise awareness of the importance of the ocean and encourage others to fall in love with the ocean and to help 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. We’re lucky that we can see dolphins, seals and huge bird colonies from the shore as well as experience a whole other amazing world beneath the surface from kelp forests to jewelled sea walls. 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.”
It is truly an honour to have the southwest coast of Ireland and all its incredible marine life recognised on the global stage. This announcement is a great encouragement for all the hard work of the Fair Seas team, our partners and the public who have followed and supported our work so far in calling for at least 30% protection for the ocean around Ireland by 2030.
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