A large, very sheltered sea bay with several river estuaries situated in County Cork. Intertidal mudflats are extensive with some areas of saltmarsh. There are three to four adjoining small freshwater or brackish lagoons and two large areas of open water, Lough Mahon and Lower Harbour, which are separated by Great Island. Large centres of human habitation lie adjacent to this site, including Cork city, which is a major port. Cork harbour and port form the largest industrial area on Ireland's south coast.
Cork Harbour regularly supports over 20,000 waterfowl. It is one of the most important sites in Ireland for breeding Sterna hirundo and for wintering Podiceps cristatus (286 birds, 1996), Mergus serrator (133 birds, 1996), Haematopus ostralegus (1,364 birds, 1995) and Vanellus vanellus (15,400 birds, 1995), as well as for staging Numenius phaeopus (3,304 birds, 1979). Several other species also occur in numbers of national importance, including Phalacrocorax carbo (991 birds, 1996), Tadorna tadorna (2,167 birds, 1986), Anas penelope (2,601 birds, 1995), Anas crecca (1,418 birds, 1996) and Pluvialis apricaria (4,431 birds, 1995).
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
Ongoing road, urban and industrial development has led to considerable loss of intertidal habitat, including mudflat. Additional threats to habitat quality are infestation of mudflats by non-native cord-grass Spartina, intertidal shellfish cultivation, and pressure from recreation and amenity interests. Whitegate oil refinery poses an ongoing pollution threat. Given the damage to this site and ongoing pressures from development, the inclusion of unprotected wetland areas within the Special Protection Area is critical.
National Partial International PartialIBA overlaps with Wildfowl Sanctuary (Douglas Estuary; area not known). 1,436 ha of IBA covered by Ramsar Site (Cork Harbour, 1,436 ha). 1,436 ha of IBA covered by Special Protection Area (Cork Harbour, 1,436 ha).