The report published today by the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government will advise the government on how to expand Ireland’s network of MPAs. This report is a crucial step towards safeguarding more of Ireland’s diminishing marine life. The Irish Wildlife Trust welcomes the publication of the report and now urges the government to act swiftly on its main findings.
It is of major concern that it has taken over three months for this report to be published while Minister Darragh O’Brien is now proposing a five month public consultation period. Ireland first committed to designating 10% of our seas as Marine Protected Areas in 2010 and yet today Ireland’s coverage – at 2.4% – is among the lowest in the world. The Programme for Government commits to protecting 30% of the sea by 2030 but, nearly two years since the Dáil declared a climate and biodiversity emergency, there is no sense of urgency from the Minister.
Ireland’s marine biodiversity, especially inside bays and estuaries, is impacted heavily by fisheries and aquaculture activities as well as from pollution and climate change. The existing network of MPAs covers a mere 2.4% of Ireland’s marine region and so is entirely inadequate.
“Our current MPAs are supposed to safeguard the most precious habitats and species from human pressures, but lack of management means even here biodiversity continues to be lost” says Regina Classen, IWT project officer. “We cannot delay further. The government must move from talking about protection to meaningful action on the ground”.
Ireland must develop a coherent approach to human activities in the marine environment. Currently, legislation before the Dáil (the Marine Planning and Development Management Bill) will provide for installations of offshore renewable energy while Ireland must present its Marine Spatial Plan to the European Commission in March. The latter plan requires that Ireland take a proactive approach to conservation and restoration of the marine environment but without even the mechanisms for creating MPAs, and with such an appalling track record in this field, this approach is fundamentally flawed. The IWT is fully supportive of expansion in renewable energy generation however this must be done in a way that also addresses the biodiversity emergency.
Contact: Regina Classen IWT Project Officer email@example.com
The Irish Wildlife Trust is a member organisation of Seas At Risk (SAR), a European NGO based in Brussels. IWT, SAR and partner NGOs from France and Portugal are working on a collaborative campaign to make MPAs work in Europe. The Irish Wildlife Trust gratefully acknowledges Oceans5 funding support.