Coral reefs discovered off our west coast in a seabed survey last year are to be designated as ocean parks, meaning an all-out ban on fishing in the areas.
Dragnet fishing destroys coral reefs, as can pollution, and even activity by tourist divers.
Environment Minister John Gormley says he hopes to see the implementation of a EU-wide fishing ban in these "ecologically sensitive areas" off the west coast of Ireland and the EU Commission has agreed with him.
Mr Gormley says Ireland's deep sea coral reefs are "some of the best in Europe."
The European Commission has now accepted Ireland's proposal for a fishing ban on four areas covering a total of 2,500 square kilometres, it was revealed yesterday.
Mr Gormley hopes a ban proposal can be rubber-stamped at next month's EU Council of Fisheries Ministers. It would be the first such permanent fishing ban of its type in the EU.
Four areas have been designated by Ireland as Special Areas of Conservation.
Coral reefs were once thought to be restricted to warm, shallow waters in tropical and subtropical regions.
However, they are increasingly being found in cold but nutrient-rich waters along the edge of continental shelves.
"These cold-water reefs act like islands on the normally featureless and muddy sea floor," a spokesman for Mr Gormley said.
He said it was clear from scientific surveys that the activities of the European fishing fleet were destroying Ireland's coral reef systems.
Last year, the Government proposed four sites for designation as Special Areas of Conservation. Two sites are located in the Porcupine Bank while two are in the Porcupine Seabight area of the coast.
"The commission is now putting the proposals forward for decision by the EU Council of Fisheries Ministers, I would hope to see the ban in place by the end of the year," Mr Gormley said.
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