A €25m project for Ireland’s most vulnerable group of birds - breeding waders - was launched at Shannon Harbour on Wednesday by Department of Agriculture ministers.

Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue, Minister of State for nature Malcolm Noonan and Minister of State for biodiversity Pippa Hackett officially launched the Breeding Waders European Investment Partnership (EIP) in Co Offaly.

The Breeding Waders EIP is funded jointly by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and the Department of Agriculture under the EIP Agri Programme.

The project aims to secure existing wader populations at key sites and to support population recovery through wider landscape management and policy development.

Populations of breeding waders, which include curlew, dunlin, lapwing and golden plover, among others, have declined by as much as 98% in recent decades in the Irish countryside.

Locally-led schemes

EIP projects are locally-led schemes, which are designed and implemented by collaborative groups involving farmers, scientists, ecologists and other experts to deliver specific goals.

Earlier this year, a consortium led by Irish Rural Link was selected as the operational group lead to deliver the Breeding Waders EIP.

Speaking at the launch, Minister McConalogue said: “This important initiative, under Ireland’s 2023-2027 CAP Strategic Plan, and the funding of €25m provided, is proof of the Government’s commitment to protect the wader populations that are currently present at important locations and to promote population recovery through broader landscape management and evidence-based policy development.

"The success of this EIP will help secure the future of breeding waders, as it will provide support to farmers that are willing to carry out habitat enhancements above and beyond regulatory standards.”

Minister Hackett said: “We are supporting the Breeding Waders EIP with a €25m budget and a world class project team.

"I am really looking forward to following its progress over the coming years and, all going well, seeing much healthier breeding wader numbers in the Shannon callows and beyond.”

The project involves a total investment of €25m, of which the NPWS is providing an investment of €17.5m, with an investment of €7.5m from the Department of Agriculture. The NPWS has also committed to an additional strategic fund of €5m for breeding waders.