Concerns raised over level of plastic waste on Little Skellig

Published by Laura Matjusaityte on

June 26th, 2018

Concern has been raised over the level of plastic pollution close to Skellig Michael, one of Ireland’s leading tourist destinations.

Photos have emerged recently of plastic waste covering Little Skellig, the smaller of the Skellig Islands off the coast of Co Kerry.

According to the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), over 35,000 pairs of Gannets were breeding in Little Skellig by 2014, a 60 per cent increase since 1970s.

Little Skellig has one of the biggest Gannets population in the world and the Skellig islands, part of the Skelligs special protection aream, are one of the most important breeding sites in Ireland.

The photos posted on the Facebook page of the Wild Derrynane group show large colonies of seabirds using plastic waste to construct their nests on Little Skellig.

Vincent Hyland, an experienced diver who took the photos told The Green News that it is a “national tragedy” to see so much plastic waste among the nesting birds.

He said that the situation is the worst that he has seen in over 40 years of diving in the area.  “The ocean pollution in 2018 is the worst I have ever seen,” he added.

“It is really upsetting to think that this national treasure adjacent to the World Heritage Skellig Michael site… is in such a state.”

Mr Hyland said that local residents are the ones who care the most about the pollution and the environment, saying that most often “local authorities lack the participation”.

The NPWS told The Green News that, while the issue of illegal dumping is a matter for the local authorities, it “strongly condemns” the dumping and is “looking into this matter”.

“The insinuation of alien materials, such as plastic, does not favour either the landscape, natural habitat, or the native species and NPWS abhors the practice,” an NPWS spokesperson said.

Skellig Michael

Skellig Michael was placed on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1996 due to its centuries-old unique beehive shaped monasteries which remain in relatively great condition.

The island has gained more attention with tourists in recent years two following the filming of the new Star Wars series on the island.

The Office of Public Works (OPW) carefully monitors the numbers of visitors to the island, and recent figures show that more than 2,000 extra visitors were allowed onto the island in 2017 compared with 2016.

The OPW told The Green News that the number of the boats visiting the island increased from 13 to 15 boats a day in 2017 and that it has not witnessed any negative effect on the island to date.

“Skellig Michael is constantly assessed for any negative impact or damage caused to the fabric or structure of the island by the elements,” a statement from OPW reads.

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Laura Matjusaityte

Laura is a first-year journalism student at DIT. She has an interest in the environment, veganism and literature.