Erosion threat at 30% of coastal sites surveyed, Coastwatch reveals

Published by Niall Sargent on

December 6th, 2018

A threat of erosion has been identified at 30 per cent of all coastal sites surveyed in 2018 by Coastwatch during its annual coastal survey.

Presenting the preliminary findings of the survey at Trinity College Dublin this morning, Coastwatch coordinator Karin Dubsky said that erosion is a “really serious thing in terms of climate change”.

While state-led policy on tackling erosion is coming down the line, Ms Dubsky said that there is no erosion management policy at present

As such, she said, every council, individual and business such as a golf club is in charge of coming up with their own mitigation plan.

This can lead to a “ricochet effect” where hard erosion control at one site impacts negatively on other coastal areas close-by due to a lack of joined-up thinking on tackling the problem.

The survey is undertaken by Coastwatch volunteers around the island of Ireland every autumn, with over 600 coastal site audits submitted.

There was a 20 per cent increase in the amount of coast surveyed over the previous year, Ms Dubsky said.

Kelp on beach Photo: bluebudgie


Many survey results pointed to special features such as coral sands, seaweed forests, mussel beds, and important seagrass habitats.

Seagrass is very valuable for Irish biodiversity, Ms Dubsky said, and are an important home to winkles – a small, black, snail-like shellfish – and various species of fish, and is also “filet speak” for brent geese.

She said that volunteers in Bantry Bay, Co Cork found an “absolutely habitat mosaic” of seagrass and a “sting of [seagrass] beds” in Lough Foyle, Co Donegal that measured several meters tall.

Aquaculture practices, however, were found to be encroaching on seagrass in the border areas, she said, with none of the sites currently subject to licensing requirements. This means that the public cannot have their say on the matter, Ms Dubsky added.

Other Findings

There was a positive decline in the number of consumer litter drinks bottles found in coastal areas, Ms Dubsky said, with 2017 figures the second lowest over the last three decades of surveying.

She said, however, that this drop may owe more to higher collection rates rather than a change in industry and individual behavioural practice.

In terms of small litter, the finding of rope and string was “way too high” and waste from aquaculture gear has “increased enormously” over the past two years, Ms Dubsky said.

Sanitary waste also increased, with Ms Dubsky pointing to wet wipes as the main culprit that is also causing major blockages at wastewater treatment plants across the country.

Conall O’Connor from the marine environment sector of the Department of Housing said that we are at a “very interesting time in history” where we are “more or less totally in control of our marine environment”.

He said, however, that we are not managing it effectively and that humans are “shattering ecosystems around the globe”.

We are filling the seas with plastic, acidifying our oceans and “denuding them of biodiversity”, he warned.

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Niall Sargent

Niall is the Editor of The Green News. He is a multimedia journalist, with an MA in Investigative Journalism from City University, London