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Offshore & Coastal Erosion

A combination of strong winds, tidal surges, very high tides and high rainfall conspired to be the main threat to areas along the west Mayo coastline. Atlantic storms have the potential to cause significant disruption to individuals, business, infrastructure and habitats including coastal erosion. Some coastal towns such as Belmullet, Westport and Louisburgh, as well as the Islands off County Mayo have been impacted by sea surge and coastal storms. Climate Change predictions suggest that the threat of sea level rise could have profound impact on coastal erosion and could mean that coastal areas will be increasingly susceptible to permanent inundation and erosion. 


Coastal erosion itself has many impacts: 

  • Beaches damaged, change to coastal geomorphology due to flooding and loss of coastal habitats. 
  • Damage to coastal infrastructure including piers, sea walls, navigational aids and carparks. 
  • Prolonged flooding of roads and consequently road diversions. 
  • Severe damage to road infrastructure including complete destruction of some bridges 
  • Prolonged flooding of private and public infrastructure. 
  • Loss of beach infrastructure, blue flag status and tourist numbers. 


The traditional local interventions of ‘hard’ and/or ‘soft’ engineering solutions to reduce vulnerability and preserve the present-day shoreline are unlikely to represent an optimum long-term management strategy for the coastal zone. More effective options will need to be developed that seek to manage change in the coastal system and allow it to adjust to climate change and the associated impacts. This will require a high level of understanding of the coastal system supported by effective monitoring of vulnerable locations, identifying where and when remedial action is necessary. 

Planning and Development of the coastal zone may need to adopt ‘set back’ lines, seaward of which no development should be allowed. A precautionary approach should be used to determine these buffer zones taking account of future sea levels, erosion and landward migration of coastal landforms. Implementing an approach of shoreline realignment, or ‘managed retreat’, is likely to be contentious where economic losses are possible or where coastal archaeology or tourist sites exist.  

Mayo County Council has produced a document which seeks to alleviate the effects of Climate Change and coastal erosion, Climate Ready Mayo “A county that understands how climate change will affect the region, our businesses and communities, and actively working together to reduce our exposure to climate risks and to capture new opportunities”. This Climate Adaptation Strategy sets out goals and objectives to build Mayo’s resilience to future threat from climate change across all sectors of the council.  

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