Irbe strait

Year of compilation: 2000

Site description
The strait connects the Gulf of Riga to the open Baltic Sea. It comprises the coastal waters lying between Ovisi village and Cape Kolka, and extending from the shore of Kurzeme county to the offshore border with Estonia. Sand and gravel are the main bottom sediments. The benthic fauna is dominated by shellfish Macoma. The main marine-traffic routes from the Baltic Sea to Estonian and Latvian ports in the Gulf of Riga pass through the strait.

Key biodiversity
The strait supports internationally important concentrations of several seabirds in winter, e.g. Gavia stellata, G. arctica, Clangula hyemalis, Melanitta fusca and Cepphus grylle. There are also large concentrations of Mergus serrator and M. merganser. Species of global conservation concern that do not meet IBA criteria: Haliaeetus albicilla (wintering).

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The area is threatened by disturbance and pollution from marine traffic (`Other' threat, above) and coastal sources, since prevailing currents reach from as far as the expanding Butinge oil terminal just across the border in Lithuania, or even from Kaliningrad (Russia). Coastal-zone regulations protect the shoreline from development to some extent. Part of this site (from Lielirbe to Kolka) has been proposed as a Baltic Sea Protection Area. The site should be managed as an integral part of the entire Irbe strait, not as an area separate from the Estonian part.

Protected areas
National None International None

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2021) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Irbe strait. Downloaded from on 20/01/2021.