Ireland is an island nation in north-western Europe. The country is heavily influenced by its location in the northern Atlantic Ocean and the coastline is dotted with old fishing villages. Nearly half of the Irish population lives within 10 km from the coastline. The biggest marine sectors in Ireland are shipping and maritime transport followed by marine tourism and leisure and oil and gas exploration and production.

The size of Ireland’s exclusive economic zone is 426,442 km2, one of the largest in the EU. Ca. 2.4% of the EEZ is currently protected (status July 2020) in a network of 160 MPAss. All of these sites are designated either under the Habitats Directive (Special Areas of Conservation, or SACs) or Birds Directive (Special Protection Areas, or SPAs), or both.*

Seven MPAs are located in the offshore regions beyond 12 nautical miles from the coast. The remaining sites are all located in inshore bays, estuaries and around islands.

The MPAs introduced on this website are but a small sample of the MPAs found in Ireland. There is at least one example from each geographical region, the east, south, south-west, and north-west coasts as well as all the offshore sites.

Many Irish Special Areas of Conservation are in the ‘candidate’ stage, meaning they have not been fully designated as SACs yet. The deadline for the Irish authorities to fully designate all remaining Irish SACs passed in 2015.

*Areas that are designated under both Directives where there is a clear overlap of SACs and SPAs were combined under one MPA.