Facts About the Irish Sea
The Irish Sea (Muir Eireann) is an arm of the Atlantic Ocean, situated between the Republic of Ireland and Great Britain, bordered to the north by the North Channel* and to the south by the St Georges Channel**.
The Irish Sea is an important regional shipping, trade and transport area with large resources of natural gas, oil and wind power, which also supports several major recreational, tourist and sporting industries along its coastline.
Twenty thousand years ago, at the end of the last ice age, the Irish Sea had been a shallow, freshwater lake, but as glacial deposits north of the lake began to swell the lake's waters, the lake became brackish eventually becoming fully saline around ten thousand years ago, making the Irish Sea Europe's youngest body of water.
The Irish Sea is one hundred and thirty miles long and between fifty and one hundred and forty miles wide, with a surface area covering forty thousand square miles.
The sea has an overall depth of around three hundred and fifty feet.
The sea is home to over fifty small islands, many of them tidal islands and most of them uninhabited.
The sea's two largest islands are the Welsh, Isle of Anglesey and the independently governed, Isle of Man.
The Irish Sea is also home to England's Wirral Peninsula and Wales' Llyn Peninsula as well as the U.K's first ever coastal National Park situated on Wales' Pembroke Coast.
The sea is fed by the major rivers of the Clyde (Scotland) the Dee (Wales) the Liffey (ROI) and the Mersey (England).
These river estuaries with their large, muddy sea beds are a rich source of wildlife and are home to several nature reserves, particularly the vast estuary basins situated on the Solway Firth in Scotland, Morecambe Bay and Liverpool Bay in England, Dublin Bay in the Republic of Ireland, Caernarfon Bay and Cardigan Bay in Wales and Carlingford Lough and Strangford Lough in Northern Ireland.
According to Greenpeace, the Irish Sea is the most heavily, nuclear contaminated sea in the world (0.22mSv per annum) leaving it little used in the way of commercial fishing, but despite this, the sea still harbors a wealth of marine wildlife, including seven species of whale, two species of dolphin, two species of seal and one species of porpoise as well as an abundance of crustacean species including mussels, scallops, prawns, crabs and cuttlefish.
The shoreline of the Irish Sea has become an important migratory flyway and stop over for thousands of sea birds travelling between Scandinavia and South Africa as well as a regular, nesting site of at least twenty one species of sea bird. It's large, silty river estuaries are also favoured spots as nurseries for many species of flat fish, herrings and sea bass.
Commercially the Irish Sea is an important regional ferry and transport route between its two neighbours the U.K and The Republic of Ireland and is home to the large Irish ports of Dublin, Rosslare and Dun Loghaire the English ports of Liverpool, Fleetwood and Birkenhead and the Welsh ports of Holyhead and Fishguard.
The Irish Sea is also the site of the United Kingdom's largest ship building and only submarine building facility, at England's Cumbrian, coastal town of Barrow - in - Furness.
The Irish Sea is an important natural energy source with nine large, combined gas and oil fields - with five situated at Liverpool Bay, two situated at Cardigan Bay and two situated at Caernarvon Bay. There are also five wind farms - situated at North Hoyle, Rhyl with ten turbines, Burbo Bank, Wirral Peninsula with twenty five turbines, Walney Island, Cumbria with thirty turbines, Clogherhead, in the Republic of Ireland with fifty five turbines and the Robin Rigg on the Solway Firth, Scotland with sixty turbines. There are also plans for another five wind farms which will make up four hundred and thirty one turbines in all, between them.
There is also a nuclear power station situated at Sellafield in Cumbria, England which has been the cause of low level radio active waste - plutonium, technetium and caesium - being discharged into the waters of the Irish Sea since nineteen fifty two.
The Irish Sea coastline is also an important regional, recreational area, which has a wealth of award winning beaches and large seaside resorts, including Blackpool, Southport and Morecambe in England, Aberystwyth and Llandudno in Wales, Bray and Malahide in the Republic of Ireland, Larne in Northern ireland and the golfing resorts of Turnberry and Troon in Scotland.
The two large islands of Anglesey and the Isle of Man are also popular tourist and sporting destinations.
The Irish Sea's four major, coastal cities are Belfast (NI), Douglas (IOM) , Dublin (ROI), and Liverpool (Eng).
For many years now there have been plans to implement a cross Irish Sea tunnel between the port of Rosslare in the Republic of Ireland and the port of Fishguard in Wales, which would make it technically situated in the St Georges Channel. The proposed fifty mile long tunnel, which was first recommended as far back as 1890, would be of immense, economical importance for the Republic of Ireland, seeing as it is the only country within the European Union without a direct land link to either the U.K or the rest of Continental Europe.