All cetaceans are protected under the EU Habitats Directive and are included in Annex IV of the Directive as species ‘in need of strict protection’. Under this Directive, the harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) and bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) are designated Annex II species which are of community interest and whose conservation requires the designation of special areas of conservation.

The EU Habitats Directive applies to the extent of each Member State’s EEZ. Ireland is a signatory to conservation agreements such as the Bonn Convention on Migratory Species (1983), the OSPAR Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the northeast Atlantic (1992) and the Berne Convention on Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (1979).

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