IRELAND’S Underwater Grand Canyon is to become a protected area through the creation of two new offshore Special Areas of Conservation (SACs).
An area 170 miles (280 km) off the coasts of Counties Cork and Kerry contains extensive reefs, including Whittard Canyon, which has been described as comparable in size and drama to the Grand Canyon in the United States.
It is also home to long-finned pilot whales and numerous species of fish, and supports endangered kittiwakes and puffins.
The second SAC encompasses the Porcupine Shelf extending west of Clew Bay in Co Mayo to west of Malin Head in Co Donegal.
It is also known for its internationally important deep sea reefs and cold water corals.
There are various species of whales, dolphins, sharks and rays, as well as arctic terns, puffins, petrels and shearwaters.
The designations, which total 3 million hectares of seascape, will contribute to Ireland’s goal of protecting 30 per cent of its territorial waters by 2030.
Heritage Secretary Malcolm Noonan made the announcement as he prepared to travel to Montreal to attend COP15, the UN biodiversity summit where talks are underway to seal a global deal on conservation.
The designation of SAC provides better protection for habitats and species and imposes stricter conditions on activities within the area.
Currently 8.3 per cent of Ireland’s 8.9 million hectares of territorial sea has SAC status and Mr Noonan said 30 per cent by 2030 is now achievable.
“We started 2020 with a low base of 2.3 per cent marine conservation, but since I became Minister we have more than tripled the overall size of marine protected areas to 8.3 per cent and are on track to mid-way through reach 10 percent next year. ” he said.
“This, together with progress on the new Marine Protected Areas Act, puts Ireland in an excellent position to meet its target of having 30 per cent of our marine area protected areas by 2030.”
The announcement was welcomed by the Fair Seas campaign, which is led by a coalition of Irish environmental groups.
“The creation of two new SACs should be celebrated. This is a significant step in the right direction,” said campaign manager Aoife O’Mahony.
“However, given the global biodiversity crisis we are now facing, it is imperative that appropriate management plans are put in place for these and all other existing MPAs as well.”
https://www.independent.ie/news/environment/underwater-grand-canyon-gets-protected-status-under-marine-conservation-move-42217765.html The underwater “Grand Canyon” is given protected status as part of the marine conservation movement