THE possible arrival of rats on the Great Blasket Island could have “devastating consequences” for seabird colonies there, a BirdWatch Ireland expert warned.
The claim was reiterated yesterday at an oral planning hearing in Dingle into proposals for a cafe on the Blasket island.
It was suggested rats could get onto the island from larger boats coming from Dingle with construction materials and provisions.
BirdWatch Ireland senior conservation and policy officer Siobhan Egan said bringing more visitors onto the island, in the wake of development, posed a direct threat to birds’ nests.
There was a considerable risk of invasive species coming in with building materials, she warned. “The arrival of a single, pregnant brown rat on An Blascaod Mór [Great Blasket] would have devastating consequences for the Manx Shearwater colony,” she said.
Ms Egan said that seabirds on the Great Blasket were as valuable to many visitors as the island’s cultural significance.
The island, famous as a repository of the old Gaelic traditions and for its writers and storytellers, was evacuated in 1953. The island village is now in ruins and rapidly falling into decay.
Four people are appealing against a decision by Kerry County Council to grant planning permission to Blascaod Mór Teo (BMT) for a cafe, toilets and supporting facilities on the island.
In its submission, BirdWatch said it had significant concerns about development on the Great Blasket without a proper assessment of the risks to the globally important bird populations being undertaken.
Ms Egan said failure to safeguard the birds risked breaches of EU legislation.
She described the Great Blasket as one of a cluster of eight islands, in south-west Kerry, that formed a world important “supercolony” for Manx shearwaters and storm petrels.
The Great Blasket itself was a stronghold for the nocturnal Manx Shearwater and, with about 3,500 of them, had one of the largest colonies in the country.
Other species included puffins, chough, kittiwake and fulmar.