The North Donegal and the south Donegal-Sligo coastlines have been identified as high biodiversity ‘Areas of Interest’ for potential Marine Protected Area designation.
The unique wildlife of the coastal areas has been highlighted in a report by Fair Seas.
The Fair Seas campaign is led by a coalition of Ireland’s leading environmental non-governmental organisations and networks to protect, conserve and restore Ireland’s unique marine environment.
In North Donegal, the report noted the area’s very high densities of basking sharks especially around Malin Head. Harbour porpoise and bottlenose dolphin are present year-round with high concentrations of both species at the mouth of Lough Swilly. Plus, Lough Swilly is the site of several important seabird colonies, and the cliffs and islands within this site are vital in this region of Ireland. Killer whales have also been observed throughout the area.
“Long stretches of cliffs from Horn Head to Fanad Head are home to important colonies of three BoCCI red-listed species (kittiwake, razorbill and puffin), and Lough Swilly provides sanctuary for breeding terns, black guillemots and black-headed gulls,” the report said.
Jack O’Donovan wrote: “Ireland’s north coast is a wild, breathtaking and largely untamed place. So much so in fact, that in 2017 Donegal was named the world’s ‘coolest destination’ by National Geographic.”
Donegal to Sligo was also identified as an area of interest due to the high densities of bottlenose dolphin that occur in this area, which show a degree of site fidelity to Donegal Bay. Harbour porpoise are present year-round and important seabird colonies found within this site are Inishmurray, especially for European shag and lesser black-backed gull, Aughris Head, Ardboline and Horse Island, and along the Slieve League Peninsula.
Fair Seas aims to build a movement of ocean stewardship across Ireland that energises and empowers people, to advocate for ambitious and robust legislation, provide impartial scientific data and research, and propose a network of effective well managed marine protected areas.
Full details of each Area of Interest are available here: https://fairseas.ie/wp-content/uploads/2022/07/FS_full_report_pages.pdf