Ecological Sensitivity Analysis of the Irish Sea Report

September 22nd 2023
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Source Galileo welcomes the publication by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage (DHLGH) of a report examining the Ecological Sensitivity Analysis of the Irish Sea. The report entitled “Ecological sensitivity analysis of the western Irish Sea to inform future designation of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)” was undertaken by the Marine Protected Area Advisory Group at the request of the Irish Government.

The aims of this ecological sensitivity and conservation prioritisation project were to:

  1. Identify areas of higher and lower ecological sensitivity within the western Irish Sea;
  2. Engage with key stakeholders;
  3. Inform decisions to be taken about the potential siting of Offshore Renewable Energy projects, taking account of stakeholder views, conservation requirements and other sectoral activity;
  4. Develop methods for identifying, designating and managing future Marine Protected Areas under forthcoming legislation.

It should be noted that while the report findings will not lead directly to the identification and designation of MPA’s, recommendations underlined in the report are intended to feed into that process.

"The site area for the proposed Mac Lir Offshore Wind Farm was, at an early stage, strategically selected to reduce impacts to existing sensitive habitats within the Irish Sea, whilst also seeking to cause minimal impact to existing commercial fishing activity."

Shane Liddy, Source Galileo's Project Manager for Mac Lir

It is important to Source Galileo that the proposed Mac Lir Offshore Wind Farm is developed in an environmentally and socially responsible manner.

As such, Source Galileo welcomes the publication of this report which, first and foremost, provides an important reminder of the ecological importance of the Irish Sea. The Irish Sea has an incredibly diverse range of habitats that support a huge amount of wildlife. The more knowledge and awareness we have of this, the better.

The findings of the report will also provide important ecological & environmental guidance on the merits of proposed ORE development in the Irish Sea and should greatly assist in strategic and effective marine planning in years to come. By highlighting the location of ecologically sensitive areas and the importance of existing sectoral activity, their overlap and vulnerability, the report provides extremely useful and objective information.

As can be seen in the figures below, the site area for the proposed Mac Lir Offshore Wind Farm was, at an early stage, strategically selected to reduce impacts to existing sensitive habitats within the Irish Sea, whilst also seeking to cause minimal impact to existing commercial fishing activity.

Figure 1 outlines Source Galileo’s Mac Lir OWF proposal overlaid with the combination of four potential MPA network solutions from conservation prioritization analysis for the selected species, habitats, and other ecological features. Cells included in one, two, three or four MPA solutions (darker shades of green) encompass areas that could be considered for the protection of features.
(Source: DHLGH)

IS Map A
Figure 1

Figure 2 outlines Source Galileo’s Mac Lir OWF proposal overlaid with the results of a prioritisation analysis showing the relative ecological importance of 1x1 km grid cells to the selected ecological features. Yellow cells contain important areas for the selected features (high ecological priority) and blue/purple cells have lower importance (low ecological priority).
(Source: DHLGH)

IS Map B
Figure 2

Figure 3 outlines Source Galileo’s Mac Lir OWF proposal overlaid with the combined fishing activity recorded in the analysis. (Source: DHLGH)

IS Map C
Figure 3

The “Ecological sensitivity analysis of the western Irish Sea to inform future designation of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)” report was published on the 19th of June 2023. Refer link for access to the report.