In November 2019, a razor shell dredge fishery was opened illegally in a Marine Protected Area in Waterford Estuary. The decision to open the fishery was successfully challenged by Irish environmental NGO Coastwatch, because the necessary environmental assessments, designed to protect nature, had not been completed by the Irish authorities. The case clearly shows the need for better protection and management of our marine protected areas (MPAs), ideally through the creation of site-specific management plans. Without thorough assessment and mitigation of the potential impacts of all human activities on protected habitats and species, the health of our marine environment will continue to deteriorate. This has been the case in many of our inshore MPAs, with loss of seagrass beds as well as damage to reefs and maerl habitat. This is often cited as an impact of dredge fisheries and aquaculture activity. The Irish state has an obligation under European law to take appropriate steps to avoid the deterioration of protected habitats and species. The Irish government must finally acknowledge these obligations and effectively protect and restore our precious marine ecosystems for nature, climate and people.
See the full Coastwatch Press Release below. For more information see Coastwatch contact details here https://coastwatch.org/europe/contact/
On Monday 13th July 2020 the Irish High Court delivered an important decision which should ensure stronger protection and the carrying out of proper environmental assessment for fisheries activities within and indeed outside of Marine Natura 2000 sites.
Mr Justice Richard Humphreys approved a full settlement of proceedings brought by Coastwatch against the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Ireland and the Attorney General. The settlement contains both site specific Waterford estuary and broader legal review commitments.
In layman’s language this means:
A delighted Coastwatch Director Karin Dubsky thanked the legal team -Solicitor Brian Harrington, Margaret Heavey BL and James Devlin SC for their wonderful work and negotiation skills. She then noted:
‘There has been too much optimism that the sea will cope with almost every private or corporate use anyone comes up with. The sea can’t and we need to protect it.’
‘On top of that, climate change is already impacting on estuarine and coastal ecosystems. A hot spell can cause local mass death of organisms. There aren’t enough marine protected areas (MPAs) as connected safe havens to support species survival and those we have aren’t managed properly’.
Coastwatch is optimistic: ‘Finally there is change in the air. The new Programme for Government sets out some positive plans and with COVID payments and changes in markets, there is a real opportunity now to restructure and focus on ocean health. We should support MPA creation, restoration and management plans and traditional low impact fisheries with locally designed closed areas.”
Coastwatch also welcomed the opportunity to provide input to the review of fisheries law and will draw on support from Irish Wildlife Trust, Seas at Risk and ClientEarth who are all working on effective fisheries management of marine protected areas across Europe.