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A porpoise. Shutterstock/Elise V
On Porpoise

Fears for Dublin Bay porpoises as work starts on dredging Port of one million tonnes of material

It’s estimated there are around 300 porpoises in Dublin Bay.

CAMPAIGNERS HAVE VOICED their concerns about the safety of the Dublin Bay porpoise as Dublin Port commences dredging.

The Dublin Port Company (DPC) plans to remove up to a million tonnes of material from the port and dump it near Howth in order to keep the port deep enough for large naval vessels.

DPC says that the maintenance dredging process, which starts today, will last for between two to four weeks. Maintenance dredging is the periodic removal of sediments and is vital for many ports.

However, campaigners say that the waste material should not be dumped at DPC’s usual site near Howth. They are also fearful that porpoises could be harmed by the dredging vessel.

The Protect Dublin Bay group says that the area should be protected from waste.

“The area of the dumpsite in Dublin Bay off the Bailey light on Howth is an EU Special Area of Conservation (SAC) since 2012. This should have prevented further dumping in that area due to greater onus on the dumper to show they are not destroying the area, (but the) EPA still allows dumping.

“The dumping is instantaneous by bottom-opening hopper. In reality, up to 4,000 tons of dredging spills out of the dredger straight down on anything below it on the sea bed. Anyone who has visited a harbour that dries out at low tide knows how foul that harbour floors are.

“The SAC is for the protection of the local reefs and the local porpoise population. The dumpsite is a known area for breeding and feeding for Dublin Bay porpoise. Should a porpoise or a shoal of fish be below the dredger when dumping happen they will be destroyed.”

PastedImage-17807 How Dublin Port Company shows the dredging operation. DPC DPC

While it declined to comment for this story, the DPC says in its dredging notice that it will retain the services of a marine observer for the works. It also says that there are no reefs nearby.

“An independent, suitably qualified marine mammal observer will be present during the dredging and dumping activities to ensure full compliance with the (EPA) guidance. This will ensure that the maintenance dredging will have no measureable impact on the welfare of harbour porpoise in Dublin Bay and the Irish Sea.”

The EPA says that DPC was granted a dumping licence in 2011 and began works in April 2012. The company has until April next year to finish its work.

Porpoises are similar to dolphins. It’s estimated there are around 300 in Dublin Bay.

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