23rd September

Kenmare Bay Marine Park: a European area for conservation?

Vincent Hyland
Over the past two months, people from the Kenmare Bay area have come together to begin the long-term process of getting the bay designated as a marine park.

According to the OECD and other bodies, the definition of a marine park is: A permanent marine area for the conservation of species, preservation of specific habitats and for the sustainability of the ecosystem for the plants and animals that live there.

This can also include the preservation of recreational activities. Most parks are designated by governments; however initiating a proposal from the ‘ground up’ is a relatively new approach. While it may be sufficient to designate an area by its boundary and inform commercial interests, some parks extend the interest and provide for public education and interpretation. 9.2YourviewKenmarebayjpg

Sunrise at Rath, Kenmare Bay. Photo V Hyland

Stakeholder concerns
There are many challenges ahead; most importantly, local stakeholder’s interests will have to be addressed. Landowners will need to be brought on board and access issues will need to be tackled. There are many commercial interests operating along the length and breadth of the bay including fish farming, fishing, quarrying and water-sport activity.

How will designation affect their existing activities, if at all? Then there is the Government. What will they have to say about a group of local people wanting to put forward such a proposal?

As people focus on more sustainable and long-term meaningful resources, the bay has clearly come to the fore.

What is generally not known about Kenmare Bay is that it is currently and most definitely on the Atlantic Ocean and not on a river, as our maps have told us in the past.

Perhaps the drowning of the Kenmare ria (coastal inlet formed by the partial submergence of an unglaciated river valley) did us a disservice. You may have been able to walk the length of the bay 100,000 years ago but it has been a bay in modern times.

Is now the time to finally put it on the map and have Kenmare Bay designated a marine park? In the future a lot more than plants and animals may depend on it for their livelihoods!
See www.ayearinkerry.com/film for a brief introduction to the areas coastal biodiversity.

Kenmare Bay consists of old red sandstone, dating from the Devonian (370+ million years) and has been formed from desert sands when Ireland was 20 degrees south of the equator. Tectonic plate movement and subsequent mountain building, ice sheet coverage and erosion have helped shape the area as we know today.
The bay stretches 50km southwest from the town of Kenmare and is edged by the mountains of the Iveragh and Beara Peninsulas. It contains special areas of conservation, natural heritage areas and special protection areas.

The bay includes inner and outer islands, most of which are maritime grassland and heath. Many plants, animals, birds and habitats within the Kenmare bay area are protected under the auspices of E.U. habitats directives.

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