Catchment News

Comprehensive bird survey being undertaken along Shannon Estuary

The most comprehensive bird population and habitat survey ever undertaken on the Shannon Estuary has been underway since May 2017. This work is being completed as part of the Strategic Integrated Framework Plan for the Shannon Estuary.

Some of the birds that will be in the survey include bar-tailed godwit, cormorant, curlew, dunlin, greenshank, golden plover, grey plover, knot, lapwing, pintail, ringed plover, wigeon, shelduck, shoveler and scaup.

The survey commenced in May 2017 and is being carried out in accordance with the EU Birds Directive, which dictates that an assessment of any such development requires that the most up-to-date comprehensive geospatial data on bird populations is available.

One of the broad objectives of this plan for the Shannon Estuary is “to establish an evidencebased approach to identifying areas for future development to ensure that proposals will work in harmony with the designated European sites”. The plan identified Strategic Development Locations for marine-related industry and Areas of Opportunity for aquaculture and renewable energy generation. Appropriate Assessment of any future development requires that the most up-to-date comprehensive geospatial data on bird populations is available.

As part of the implementation of the plan, a comprehensive survey of the entire River Shannon and Fergus Estuaries SPA (Site Code: 004077) is being undertaken to establish the baseline bird usage across the site over the 2017 to 2018 period.

The year-long study is being undertaken by McCarthy Keville O’Sullivan on behalf of the Shannon Estuary Strategic Infrastructure Framework Plan (SIFP) Steering Group, comprising stakeholders engaged in the development and management of Ireland’s largest and deepest estuary.

Clare County Council, Kerry County Council and Limerick City & County Council, the region’s local authorities, have joined with Shannon Group and Shannon Foynes Port Company in promoting ‘Deep Water Marine Investment Opportunities’ on 1,220 hectares of land at 6 Strategic Development Locations deemed appropriate for marinerelated investment. The sites, which are zoned for marine-related industry in Regional and Local statutory development plans, include Moneypoint (280Ha), Innismurry/Cahericon (65Ha) in Clare, Askeaton (98Ha), Foynes Island (40Ha), and Foynes Port and adjoining lands (186Ha) in Limerick, and Tarbert – Ballylongford Landbank (550Ha) in Kerry.

The proposed bird usage survey area stretches from Limerick City to where the Shannon Estuary meets the Atlantic Ocean in West Clare and North Kerry. The survey began during May 2017 and is being carried out in accordance with the EU Birds Directive which dictates that an assessment of any such development requires that the most up-to-date comprehensive geospatial data on bird populations is available.

Surveys such as the Irish Wetland Bird Survey (I-WeBS) are among the longest-running of the national wildlife monitoring schemes in Ireland and is highly dependent on the input of volunteers and staff of National Parks and Wildlife Service (NWPS). While such surveys have been carried out in the Shannon Estuary in the past a review of these surveys has indicated there are significant data gaps which need to be filled. Many area of the estuary have achieved inadequate or poor coverage during I-WeBS with only one season covered. Therefore, it is critical that an adequate baseline is acquired in order to provide investor confidence and inform future development.

The Shannon Estuary features 500km2 of navigable water running from Kerry Head and Loop Head as far as Limerick City, a distance of 100km. The Estuary is Ireland’s premier deepwater port routinely catering for ships up to 200,000 deadweight tonnage (dwt) with key ports at Limerick and Foynes and direct connectivity to all major international shipping lanes. It is home to several large industrial sites, including ESB Moneypoint, Aughinish Alumina, Tarbert Power Station, Shannon International Airport and NORA Fuel Reserve.

Who is involved?

Quite simply, everyone in Ireland has a role to play. This can be from something as simple as making sure you don’t pollute your local stream, or a local community working together to establish a Rivers Trust to enhance the rivers and lakes in their area, to a Government Department or Agency helping a Minister implement a new policy to help protect and enhance all our water bodies.

This website has been developed and is maintained by the Environmental Protection Agency, and is a collaboration between the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Local Authority Waters Programme.


Local Authority Waters Programme

The Local Authority Waters Programme coordinates the efforts of local authorities and other public bodies in the implementation of the River Basin Management Plan, and supports local community and stakeholder involvement in managing our natural waters, for everyone’s benefit.


Environmental Protection Agency

The EPA is responsible for coordinating the monitoring, assessment and reporting on the status of our 4,842 water bodies, looking at trends and changes, determining which waterbodies are at risk and what could be causing this, and drafting environmental objectives for each.


Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage

The Department is responsible for making sure that the right policies, regulations and resources are in place to implement the Water Framework Directive, and developing a River Basin Management Plan and Programme of Measures to protect and restore our waters.