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Star Wars filming activity on Skellig Michael

BirdWatch Ireland Position Statement - 28th August 2015

BirdWatch Ireland understands that filming activity is proposed on Skellig Michael in September 2015. At this time of year, the majority of the diurnal seabirds (those active during the daytime) e.g. Puffin, Kittiwake, Guillemot and Razorbill will have finished their breeding season.  However, the nocturnal species, especially European Storm-petrel, will still have chicks in burrows and crevices and these will not fledge until late September or October.  Hence breeding adults will still be returning to the island each night to feed their young.  A second nocturnal species, the Manx Shearwater, may also be attending young in burrows though in this case the proportion of the nesting population involved will be much smaller at this time.

 

European Storm-petrel: Skellig Michael hosts one of the most important breeding colonies of this species in the world. (Photo: Anthony McGeehan)
European Storm-petrel: Skellig Michael hosts one of the most important breeding colonies
of this species in the world.
(Photo: Anthony McGeehan)

It is BirdWatch Ireland’s view that a full assessment of potential impacts needs to take place so that mitigation measures can be determined and put in place to avoid impacts on the seabird colony.  We are also seeking information about the consenting process.

 

Further background information

In summer 2014 permission was granted by the State (Minister for Department of Arts, Heritage & Gaeltacht) for filming of a film in the Star Wars franchise.  This filming took place during the seabird breeding season which raised significant concerns with both BirdWatch Ireland and UNESCO, which monitors the management of the island, given its status as a  World Heritage Site.  The filming operation spanned 2 weeks over the breeding season.  While  National Parks & Wildlife Service staff oversaw the operation, it is our view that a full assessment of potential impacts on the breeding bird colony should also have taken place, as was required by law.

BirdWatch Ireland is aware that the Star Wars production team has requested to undertake further filming on the island in September 2015.  To the best of our knowledge, some monitoring of seabirds on the island has taken place throughout June and July of this year, but it is not clear as to how this relates to the consent process.  An exercise to screen for and carry out an Appropriate Assessment is required under EU and national legislation, and it is not clear whether this has actually taken place.  We also seek clarification that detailed seabird monitoring, including assessments of population size and breeding productivity, are carried out for a number of years post-filming to assess any long-term impacts on the island's breeding bird populations.

Beehive huts on Skellig Michael with Little Skellig, a BirdWatch Ireland reserve, in the background.
Beehive huts on Skellig Michael with Little Skellig, a BirdWatch Ireland reserve, in the background.
(Photo: Jen Lynch)

 

   

 

 

 

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