HUMAN activity is turning Lough Hyne – the country’s first marine nature reserve – into a water sports resort.
That is the complaint some residents have made in a document sent to the National Parks and Wildlife Service.
A new group called Lough Hyne Matters has also been formed because residents believe the lake and surrounding woodland is now ‘in crisis.’
About 15 years ago, they said the reserve had about 1,800 species of flora and fauna, but today the northern part of the lake resembles ‘a barren moonscape.’
They blame increased human activity at the northern pier for the disturbance. They say only five or six of the 40 species listed on the information boards can be sighted at the lakeside, and that it has had a detrimental impact on the habitat for purple sea urchins and starfish.
‘What we really want is for people to enjoy Lough Hyne as a reserve and not as a resort,’ according to resident Alice Kelly.
As a group, the residents put their concerns in much starker terms to the National Parks and Wildlife Service.
‘Human activity,’ they wrote, ‘in the form of sports and leisure activities in Lough Hyne Marine Nature Reserve are now practiced 365 days of the year – first thing in the morning and late into the night – and have de facto turned Europe’s first statutory Marine Nature Reserve into a water sports resort offering free, unregulated and unsupervised access with a complete disregard for the Lough’s fauna, flora or its unique marine ecosystem.’
The residents said they want to preserve the nature reserve, which was the first to be designated by ministerial order in 1981, for future generations.
The residents claim the level of human activity – including diving, kayaking and swimming – has led to reduced sightings of otters, barn owls, short eared owls, curlew, choughs and peregrine falcons.
One resident even complained that scallops, taken from the lough, were barbecued and consumed on site.
They are also unhappy about the ‘abandonment’ of about 45 boats, canoes and kayaks.
Resident Stephen Grant said it is their hope is that people visiting the reserve will take home what they bring, including their waste and kayaks.
Resident Pat Burke said the trees to which these boats are chained are being ‘skinned alive’ and their appearance gives the wrong impression. ‘It makes the reserve look like a dumping ground,’ he said.
Mr Burke said he believes people would willingly show more consideration and respect for the reserve if the issue was highlighted in the local media.
The Southern Star requested a comment from the NPWS.