Marine Protected Areas / Marine Reserves are specifically marine areas that function exactly like Special Areas of Conservation. Currently, Ireland’s only statutory marine reserve is found at Lough Hyne. Established in 1981, this highly biodiverse sea lough can be found 6km south of Skibbereen. It is unusual in that it has a relatively high number of species for such a small area, at just over 400ha. Lough Hyne’s sheltered reefs provide a home for many species rarely found in Ireland if at all.
The declining purple sea urchin (Paracentrotus lividus), the soft coral (Paraerythropodium coralloides), and two rare species of goby: Couche’s goby (Gobius couchi) and the red-mouthed goby (G. cruenatatus) are all present at the lough (DAHG, 2013). In all of Ireland, southern cup coral (Caryophillia inornatus) is only found in Lough Hyne. These are just a few examples of the variety of organisms found in the marine reserve. The lough was assigned protective status after over 100 years of scientific research carried out at the site (Kearney, 2013). It is through scientific research and investigation like this, that conservation and protective legislation can be properly informed and implemented.