Ireland's Ocean Environment

About the author

Dr John Joyce is currently the Communications Manager at the Marine Institute, and co-ordinates the ‘Explorers’ marine outreach and education programme for schools. In 1978 he was presented with the Glaxo EU Fellowship for Science Writers by Taoiseach Mr. Jack Lynch T.D. for a series of articles on marine life in the magazine Diving Ireland. A published author and keen cartoonist, John is the creator of the Captain Cockle series of marine adventure books for children, as well as the ‘Virtual Trilogy’ of techno-thrillers Virtually Maria, A Matter of Time and Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow. His cartoon page of facts about the sea - Captain Cockle’s Log – is a regular feature in the environmental newspaper Sherkin Comment.

Ireland's Ocean Environment

Ireland’s ocean environment covers 90% of our country’s territory. This is because Ireland has rights to over 220 million acres of designated Irish Continental Shelf which is ten times greater than the size of the island of Ireland. Consequently, Ireland’s marine environment is one of the largest in the European Union.

Ireland's marine environment is a national asset that provides multiple commercial and non-commercial benefits in terms, for example seafood, tourism, recreation, renewable energy, oil and gas, cultural heritage, and biodiversity. In terms of biodiversity, the temperate waters that surround Ireland are highly productive and provide a rich diversity of marine life, including hundreds of species of invertebrates and fish, 24 species of whales and dolphins, breeding colonies of both the common and grey seal and some of the largest breeding populations of seabirds in Western Europe.

Ireland’s location in the Atlantic Ocean has meant that its marine environment has remained largely unpolluted. In recent years, however, the level of environmental pressures, from both internal and external factors, has increased. Coastal development and industrialisation, particularly during the 1990s, has caused an increase in the range and magnitude of stresses that have the potential to impact negatively on Ireland’s tidal water quality (EPA, 2018). Moreover, the impacts of climate change are already altering Ireland's coastal environment in many ways.

Next - Invertebrate Lifenext