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'Seas off Wexford' - Ireland's newest and biggest SPA

January 11th, 2024

My first big announcement of 2024 - like the place it's going to protect - is something pretty special! Just six months after announcing Ireland's biggest EVER protected area for birds, I have some news that surpasses even that! 'Seas off Wexford' is Ireland's NEWEST AND BIGGEST Special Protection Area for birds, and at 305,000 hectares it's bigger than County Wexford itself.

This new designated area will provide enhanced protection for about twenty different species of birds, including some of our most iconic and beloved seabirds like the puffin and the great northern gannet. Along with marking the largest SPA in the history of the State, this announcement increases the percentage of protected marine waters around Ireland to just under 10%, in line with our European commitments. 

When I became Minister for Heritage, only 2.3% of Ireland's marine area was protected. This new SPA designation for Wexford brings us up to 9.4%. That's a 400% increase, and it makes the 10% I promised under the EU Biodiversity Strategy very achievable within the current year.

The new SPA, designated under the EU Birds Directive, adjoins eight existing SPAs already designated in this area, four of which are designated for breeding seabirds, and the publication of detailed information and maps for the site brings certainty and clarity to a long-mooted proposal for protections for marine birds in this area.

I'm so pleased to be making this announcement today, as it marks another significant step forward for nature, and particularly for our seabirds. As a government, we're working hard to ensure robust biodiversity protections, just as we are working hard to deliver on our offshore renewable energy objectives. We know that biodiversity action and climate action must go hand in hand, and our delivery of a swift transition to clean, renewable energy must have protection for the natural world at its heart. This is good news for our renewable journey and good news for nature!


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