The muddy seabed of the Irish Sea is home to an enormous range of marine life and is as rich a habitat as the Amazon Rainforest. A weird and wonderful array of creatures burrow into the soft muddy seabed to make their homes. This includes beautiful fireworks anemones, colourful sea pens, sea potatoes and ocean quahogs, a type of clam that, at 500 years is the longest lived animal in the world.
Above the seabed, the waters are home to declining populations of whitefish, now a shadow of their former richness thanks to decades of over-fishing. Dolphins and minke whales roam these waters, seeking out a fish supper alongside thousands of seabirds.
These mud habitats and the wildlife they support are under threat.
Every year, fishing boats drag their heavy trawls along the seabed in order to catch Dublin Bay prawns – a small orange lobster that is better known as scampi or langoustine. But these trawls don’t only catch scampi, they take everything in their path.
Two Marine Conservation Zones have been recommended to protect the muddy seabed of the Irish Sea: South Rigg and Queenie Corner. Designating these sites as MCZs would be good news for people and wildlife in the Irish Sea. It would create safe havens from trawling, allowing numbers of Dublin Bay prawns to increase and spill over into surrounding areas, as well as directly protecting the unique community of animals found on and in the seabed.
In the longer-term, protection would ensure that habitats and species which have declined would become common again. Excitingly, this could mean more seabirds, more whales and more dolphins, as well as greater opportunities for coastal tourism all around the Irish Sea.