By Kieran O’Mahony
A WEST Cork environmental group has called for government intervention on a planned €7m tourism development for Dursey Island, which they fear will decimate a protected bird species there.
Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) say that the Council-backed Dursey Island Cable Car and Visitor Centre will lead to a decline in choughs on the island.
The environmental charity has written to Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht Josepha Madigan pointing out that surveys contained in the environment impact statement (EIS) show a 30% decline in chough numbers since 2003.
They say that scientific studies have established that tourism threatens the choughs.
The survey showed that in late June/early July, family groups of choughs were observed starting to flock on the western side of the island, and birds largely stayed around this area from this point onwards.
One surveyor reported walking from the eastern to the western end of the island on July 2nd, observing no choughs until reaching the western end of the island, which is the key foraging and flock-forming area.
Tony Lowes of FIE said that studies have shown that the survival of young choughs was lowest when tourist numbers were greatest because inexperienced birds had trouble finding sufficient food when disturbed frequently.
‘While the EIA itself warns of potential dangers to the chough that cannot be ruled out, it proposes no prohibitions on visitors or meaningful measures beside signage to protect the bird, as restriction would be counterproductive as they required most in the peak tourist months of July and August,’ said Tony.
‘We have no doubt that when the staff examine the scientific research and the nature of the development they will determine that exploiting Dursey Island like this will threaten the survival of the chough and set a precedent for future mass tourism in Ireland at the expense of our protected wildlife.’
Cork County Council, in partnership with Fáilte Ireland, has applied to An Bord Pleanála to replace the existing six-person cable car which currently takes 10 minutes to cross. They propose the construction of two new cable cars capable of carrying between 200 and 300 passengers an hour each way to the island.
The project also includes an extensive visitor centre on the mainland and the construction of 16 passing bays in the 4km spur from the main Beara peninsula road, designed to increase visitors to 80,000 per year.
Submissions on the proposal could be submitted up until Friday October 25th.
An earlier development earmarked for the island by a private developer seeking permission to construct a detached tourist accommodation to incorporate a café, guest accommodation and facilities for walkers and cyclists, was withdrawn.