Community Perspectives: Pollution

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Although West Cork is valued for beautiful scenery, its rich maritime environment still suffers from pollution. The local community is all too well aware of this: in our survey, marine pollution was not only their greatest environmental concern, but the one they were best informed about (Deep Maps Survey, 2016).

We discussed pollution on the West Cork coast with some local residents in order to get a better understanding of how it is impacting them and their surroundings.


The most frequently-mentioned problem was marine pollution from plastics. This is a global issue and West Cork is no exception.

Community Perpectives, Pollution: Netting on Castlefreke (Breda Moriarty)
Netting on Castlefreke (Image Credit: Breda Moriarty)

Communities in West Cork have noticed an increase in the amount of plastics found on their beaches. Local historian Terri Kearney observes that the shells and glass that used be washed up on the shores have been replaced by plastic:

I bring my nieces and nephews beach-combing…You could always find glass, but now it’s plastic, plastic, plastic…The amount of plastic you see on the beach [is] really frightening – [it’s] everywhere.

Artist Angie Shanahan is struck by the way in which this plastic waste is damaging the environment:

You have your beds of seaweed on the beach and copiously interwoven through the seaweed are bits of plastic and snatches of nylon rope which are cut off from maybe the mussel beds.


A second example is sewage contamination which remains a current concern in parts of West Cork. Paula Ní Ríogáin explains:

There is no sewage treatment in Cape Clear. So the problem during the summer is that no swimming is allowed here.

These are just two examples of how pollution is impacting on the everyday lives of West Cork communities. 

Further Research

Following our discussions with the community, we were interested to find out how long pollution had been considered an issue in Ireland, especially West Cork, so we delved into the archives to find out more about the history of pollution. Meanwhile our scientists compiled a review of some recent research on pollution.

More Information

Learn more about present-day pollution in the  Pollution Literature Review.

Find out about historical pollution in Pollution in West Cork 1700 to the Present Day.

Read more West Cork community perspectives on environmental priorities.