A List of the Endangered Species of Ireland

Leave a comment / / Updated on: 25th September 2023

Ireland Flag
Ireland Flag | Poligrafistka via iStock

Ireland is an island located in the North Atlantic Ocean.

Naturally, much of its wildlife consists of fish species, which is why our list of endangered species living in Ireland includes only fish.

The country’s coastal waters are home to 375 species, while its freshwater environments host around 40 fishes.

Overfishing is a major threat to Ireland’s wildlife, causing numerous fish species to register a steady population decline.

Besides this, habitat degradation and vessel strikes increase the risk of extinction.

If you want to discover more, read on to learn what unique species Ireland hosts and why they’re endangered.

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4.  European Eel

European eel in a river
European eel in a river | Michel VIARD via iStock

The European eel is a snake-like fish measuring around 2-2.6 feet long.

It’s a long-living species, sometimes reaching a lifespan of over 100 years, especially in captivity.

The IUCN Red List assessed the species in 2008 and concluded it was critically endangered.

This assessment was based on the fact that the European eel population was believed to have suffered a decline of 95%-99%, which peaked in the early 1980s.

There’s little evidence showing what precisely caused such a dramatic decline, but scientists have various theories, one being the North Atlantic Oscillation.

This is a weather phenomenon that supposedly reduced the European eel growth rate.

Common eel (Anguilla anguilla)
Common eel (Anguilla anguilla) | mauribo via iStock

Other hypotheses are associated with overfishing, dams, climate change, increasing predators, and a parasitic nematode called Anguillicola crassus that impacts the eels’ ability to reach spawning grounds.

Conservation actions include securing fishing rights and supporting local stock levels.

The species was also listed in CITES Appendix II.

This means export permits are issued only if the fish is legally obtained.

Moreover, this can be done only if the export doesn’t affect the species’ population.

3.  Common Skate

Top view of a Common skate
Top view of a Common skate | NaturalWorldLover via NatureRules1 Wiki

The common skate is the world’s largest skate species, reaching lengths of up to 9 ft 4 inches!

It has a rhombic shape, a pointed snout, a row of spines along the tail, an olive-brown coloration on top, and a blue-grayish underside.

The IUCN Red List assesses the species as critically endangered, as specialists suspect a population reduction of more than 80% over the past 60 years (three generations).

Historically, the Dipturus batis was one of the most abundant skate species.

Antique illustration of Common skate (Raja batis)
Antique illustration of Common skate (Raja batis) | Nastasic via iStock

Over the years, it has disappeared from much of its range, and its presence is uncertain in many localities.

The common skate is, by its nature, more vulnerable to overexploitation than other skate species due to its large size, low fecundity rate, and slow growth.

The species is targeted directly but is also caught incidentally as bycatch.

These fish may go extinct if further conservation efforts aren’t oriented toward the common skate population.

2.  Porbeagle Shark

Portbeagle shark swimming
Portbeagle shark swimming | Gerard Soury via GettyImages

The porbeagle shark is a mackerel shark.

It has a stout, spindle-like body and a large, strongly curved mouth.

It’s an opportunistic hunter able to migrate long distances and capable of reaching high swimming speeds.

After concluding that the porbeagle shark population had registered a reduction of over 80% over the last 75 years, the IUCN Red List assessed the species as critically endangered in Europe and vulnerable globally.

Side view of Porbeagle
Side view of Porbeagle | Dorling Kindersley via GettyImages

The constant population decline is associated with the species’ small litter size and long maturation time.

Moreover, it is threatened by overfishing primarily because of its meat, which is considered the world’s most valuable shark meat.

Its fins are used for shark fin soups in East Asia, while other body parts are used in leather and liver oil production.

The porbeagle shark is listed under CITES Appendix II and CMS Appendix I, and various countries have adopted certain laws to preserve the species and avoid their extinction.

1.  Sei Whale

Sei whale swimming at Pico Island, Azores, Portugal
Sei whale swimming at Pico Island, Azores, Portugal | Gerard Soury via GettyImages

The sei whale is the world’s third-largest rorqual.

These whales have dark steel gray bodies patterned with lighter markings on the ventral part.

Males can reach up to 45 feet, while females are larger, sometimes 49 feet long!

They are a migratory species, spending their summers in subpolar waters and their winters in temperate, subtropical waters.

The IUCN Red List assessed the species in 2007, concluding that the sei whale was endangered.

This is backed up by specialists believing around 250 mature individuals are left.

Unfortunately, there’s no official confirmation regarding this number, and little is known about the current species’ population trend.

Painting of a Sei whale
Painting of a Sei whale | NOAA United States via Wikipedia Public Domain

What we know for sure, though, is that sei whales have been severely exploited historically.

While the percentage is lower now, it’s difficult to help restore population balance.

Other threats include ship strikes and pathological conditions.

However, these two had a minimal effect on the steady decline compared to the above-mentioned historical commercial exploitation.

The International Whaling Commission and the general moratorium on commercial whaling legally protect the species.

Further conservation efforts are required to help maintain or even increase the number of mature individuals and avoid extinction.


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