SDWF welcomes Strategic Integrated Framework Plan for Shannon Estuary
The Shannon Dolphin and Wildlife Foundation welcome this extensive and well presented plan. For many years there has been talk about developing the potential of the Shannon estuary for industry but nothing has been progressed. The SDWF are pleased to see that the conservation importance of the estuary has been acknowledged throughout.
Shipping and Navigation
Large vessels produce low frequency noise which will increase if vessel movement increases. Although the sound is produced at a high intensity and low frequencies travel large distances, bottlenose dolphins are not sensitive to these low frequencies. The sound sensitivities of many fish species which may contribute to the diet of the bottlenose dolphins in the Shannon Estuary are not known and any disturbance to them will have a knock-ob effect on the dolphins. If low frequency sound is to increase the SDWF recommend a noise monitoring station be created in the estuary to ensure this source of pollution is within acceptable levels. Such a monitoring station was trialled off Tarbert, Co Kerry during June to November 2012 through the LIDO system (see www.listentothedeep.com) and is a requirement of the Marine strategy Framework Directive. The SIFP should engage with the Department of Environment and EPA to establish one of the national ocean noise monitoring stations in the Shannon estuary.
Harnessing the Energy Resource
The SDWF acknowledges the objective assessment of sites used to identify suitable areas for different activities, however it would like to express concern over the identification of a site off Kilconly Point for Tidal Energy. This is a really important foraging site for bottlenose dolphins, especially on a flood tide and any tidal energy device with moving parts could cause a fatal collision. This also applied to the site adjacent to Moneypoint, although not to the same extent. Collision risk between marine mammals and tidal devices increases with ambient noise and the detection distance decreases with increased noise levels. We request these areas to be flagged as having potentially serious implications for the bottlenose dolphins in the estuary.
Marine Tourism and Leisure
The presence of a resident, genetically discrete bottlenose dolphin population in the Shannon Estuary makes them a unique tourism product. Despite this little direct reference is made to developing the tourism potential of commercial dolphin-watching and research opportunities. The SDWF have a comprehensive monitoring programme in place and are confident that disturbance of dolphins due to tourism is currently not significant and providing any development is done sensitively can be sustainable.
Commercial Fishing and Aquaculture
Any new fishery or fishing technique used in the Shannon Estuary should be subjected to an Environmental Impact Assessment. The SDWF have voiced concerns over large pair trawlers fishing sprat in the estuary mainly from an ecological rather than operational perspective and believe removal of hundreds of tonnes of sprat from the system in the autumn is likely to impact negatively on marine predators (mammals and seabirds). Thus any new fishery should be fully assessed before it is licensed.
Building on the Shannon Estuary an Environmental Asset
The SDWF welcomes this chapter and the identification that the Shannon Estuary is an environmental asset and not a constraint. There are a lot of actions that require that they are carried out in full compliance with the Habitats and other Directives. Compliance requires data and assessments require baseline data. The SDWF strongly recommends that structures are put in place to collect these data and make them available to the plan. Reliance on single issue, single site EIAs is not sufficient as results from these local studies cannot be put into context of the estuary as a whole.
How are baseline surveys going to be funded. The state do not have the resources to fund these studies and surely those who wish to develop the estuary should be funding collection of baseline and monitoring data. SDWF developed a Shannon Environmental Research Fund (SERF) and submitted this concept to the consultation process. Should the SIPF consider an EU LIFE+ proposal to develop best practice and demonstration projects for industrial development in a Natura 2000 site.
SDWF think these issues should be given some more consideration and a structure put in place to seek financial support either through the partnership or from outside to implement these aspects of the plan.
Special Area of Conservation (SAC)