TORONTO —; Filming for Star Wars: Episode VII on a protected island off Ireland’s coast is being criticized by environmentalists and international observers.
Crews are shooting scenes for three days on Skellig Michael, a World Heritage Site located 12 kilometres off the coast of County Kerry that has had protected status since 1996.
UNESCO, an agency of the United Nations focused on promoting peace and security through international collaboration, has called on the Irish government to explain how producers of the new Star Wars film were able to get permission to use the island.
“We can’t speculate what the filming of Star Wars on the site will do to the wildlife,” said spokesperson Roni Amelan, according to the Belfast Telegraph. “We just know that this is going on and we have asked for information.”
Birdwatch Ireland said filming is taking place in the middle of breeding season for native birds, including puffins, cormorants and guillemots.
“This is totally inappropriate in terms of the timing,” a spokesperson for the group said.
An Irish Navy vessel is reportedly enforcing a two-mile exclusion zone around the island, infuriating local residents and tour operators.
According to the Daily Mail, the Irish Film Board said it granted permission for the film shoot after getting an all-clear from the National Parks and Wildlife Service. The board added there are wildlife experts on scene to monitor the situation.
Meanwhile, the Belfast Telegraph reported that Mark Hamill, who played Luke Skywalker in the original Star Wars movie, has been spotted going to and from the island.