Did you know?

  • Ireland has 7,500 km of coast and one of the largest sea areas in the EU. Ireland has a seabed territory of about 880,000 km2. This is more than 10 times the size of the island of Ireland itself. Also, our tidal waters cover more than 14,000 km2.
  • In 2016, the direct economic value of the Irish ocean economy was worth about €1.8 billion (Ireland’s Ocean Economy Report, 2017, SEMRU).
  • Ireland’s coastline contributes to our citizens’ wellbeing, health and quality of life.

National Marine Monitoring Programme 

A monitoring programme to provide an overview of ecological health in transitional and coastal waters is undertaken by:

The National Marine Monitoring Programme is coordinated by the EPA.

As our tidal waters cover more than 14,000 km2, the area is broken down into more manageable units called water bodies. A representative number of these water bodies were selected to be monitored to provide an overall indication of the quality (status) of Ireland’s marine waters.

Currently, 80 transitional waters (estuaries) and 46 coastal waters are included in the national monitoring programme.


What is monitored?

Both the plants and animals (biological communities) as well as chemical measurements are monitored in each water body.

The biological communities that are monitored include:

  • Tiny free-floating plants
  • Animals without a backbone living in the bottom muds (benthic invertebrates)
  • Fish
  • Opportunistic seaweeds (seaweeds that grow very quickly when environmental conditions suit, causing large accumulations of plant matter such as sea lettuce)
  • Rocky shore seaweeds
  • Seagrass (the only true marine plant found in Irish waters)
  • Saltmarsh (a community of salt tolerant plants that form a band along the upper tidal limit of water bodies)

The monitoring programme also measures:

  • Dissolved oxygen
  • Nutrients, including nitrogen and phosphorus
  • Specific chemical pollutants 

For technical information on our survey methods and our detailed monitoring programme, please see our report.


The ecological status of transitional and coastal waters

81% of monitored coastal water bodies and 36% of monitored transitional waters are at ‘high’ or ‘good’ ecological status.  There has been a decline in the quality of our estuaries and coastal waters, particularly in the south and southeast of the country where high nutrient levels in the water are damaging their ecology.

Status of Trans & Coastal 2016-2021 Map

Ecological status of transitional and coastal waterbodies 2016-2021