Ecoregion Conservation of the Celtic Marine Ecosystems
Useful references and links

Credit: M. Daines / SeaquestThe Celtic Marine Ecosystems include the Irish Sea and also support characteristic continental shelf (break) communities of temperate and subarctic waters. Extending from the Hebridean and Faeroe shelf along Rockall and Porcupine Bank west of Eire, the Celtic shelf and waters surrounding the four peninsulas of South-west Ireland, the Gower Peninsula-Wales, South-west England, Brittany (France) to the Bay of Biscay (France), they form the western margin of the WWF Global 200 Ecoregion North-East Atlantic Shelf .

The Celtic Marine Ecosystems deserve Ecoregion Conservation (ERC) due to their complex hydrographic regime, high productivity, high diversity in terms of species richness and unique shelf break and deep sea features such as slopes, trenches, basins, ice-berg scour marks, sea mounts and banks.There is a mixture of arctic and temporate components in the fauna which comprises invertebrate keystone species such as deep sea corals (Lophelia pertusa). High productivity associated with the shelf break and large stocks of keystone zooplankton species (e.g. Calanus finmarchicus) result in the shelf edge being a seasonal feeding ground for birds, fishes, porpoises, dolphins and whales. With regard to migratory animals, the basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus - see figure below) and the leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea - see figure above) belong to the most intriguing flag-ship species of the subregion.

Marine wildlife of the Celtic Marine Ecosystems is facing a wide range of existing and emerging threats from human activities such as deep sea fisheries, offshore oil and gas exploration and shipping. The natural wealth of the ecoregion has repeatedly been affected by major oil spills from shipping accidents.

Credit: Wildlife/ D. BurtonIn contrast to the burning problems and conflicts, a number of promising new initiatives exist in environmental policy and science to liaise with stakeholders in the ecoregion in order to jointly develop a viable approach to the sustainable use of marine resources and the protection of the marine and coastal environment. In this context, the transnational initiative by UK fishermen to support European fisheries management with no-take zones (fishing free zones) is highlighted. In general, there are good prospects to reconcile the socio-economic needs of the ecoregion with ecological and conservation needs in the longer term.

In 2002-3, WWF is conducting a Biodiversity Assessment, Threats Analysis as well as Socio-economic Assessment and Stakeholder Analysis for the North-East Atlantic Shelf Ecoregion with a view to developing a biodiversity vision and long-term Ecoregional Conservation Plan.

Contact: Coordination office