Take action on marine protection: Participate in the public consultation on Marine Protected Areas in Ireland!

Participate in the public consultation on the report

‘Expanding Ireland’s Marine Protected Area Network’

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Context

Currently, only around 2% of Irish seas are nominally protected, even though the government had committed to protecting 10% of the Irish marine region by 2020. Now, the Irish government has committed to expanding its network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) to cover at least 30% of its marine region by 2030, in line with the EU Biodiversity Strategy. In order to inform the process of MPA designations, the Irish government has opened a public consultation on a report that outlines how to expand Ireland’s network of MPAs. The 200 page report (+annexes) was written by a group of academics and MPA experts who have many years experience in this field.

Why does it matter?

MPAs are now more important than ever – sealife faces many threats from fishing with harmful gear to intensive aquaculture, pollution and climate change. We want the Irish government to achieve their target of protecting at least 30% of Irish seas by 2030 in a network of highly protected areas that are coherent, representative, connected and resilient. For this, the government must implement the advice of their own MPA expert group. We want to make sure that the public is as engaged in this consultation process as possible and will hold the government to account should they fail to deliver on marine protection once again.

Tell me more about the MPA report

What the MPA report is about

The expert advisory group has delivered a very detailed and informative report. In it, the group explains the current degraded status of Ireland’s marine environment compared to historic baselines, identifies benefits and socioeconomic impacts of MPAs and sets out a clear path to expanding Ireland’s network of protected areas. The report also suggests a definition of a marine protected area which is to be enshrined in Irish law for the first time.

What we think of it

We support most of the recommendations in the report. In particular, we support the

  • Systematic Conservation Planning approach described in the report
  • establishment of a national coordinating body to coordinate the planning and implementation of MPAs
  • emphasis on the importance of early and sustained stakeholder engagement throughout the MPA designation and management processes

Read more

There are a few things we would have wished to see more of in the report, and those include

  • a clear recommendation that all new MPAs must be highly protected areas that are in line with IUCN guidelines (i.e. industrial and harmful human activities are restricted)
  • more emphasis on the need for a ‘whole-site’ approach rather than the ‘feature-based’ approach which has been used with limited success in current MPAs
  • more emphasis on the urgency with which the government must now act. New primary legislation will be needed to designate new MPAs and Ireland will need to negotiate fishing access inside MPAs with other EU member states. Both of these processes may take many years and the government wants to increase MPA coverage 10-fold by 2030! Time is of the essence.

Sounds good, I want to act!

 

Step 1: Respond to the public consultation

There are two options to respond to the consultation:

  • You can copy our draft response to the report below and paste it into an email. Feel free to add any information or thoughts you may have on MPAs and send the email to marine.env@housing.gov.ie with the subject line ‘MPA Public Consultation 2021’

 

Our response to the report

Re: Public consultation on ‘Expanding Ireland’s Network of Marine Protected Areas’

Ireland’s marine environment has changed dramatically over the past century. Our inshore areas are under immense pressure from industrial fishing, aquaculture and pollution. One-third of shark, ray and skate species are threatened with extinction (and another third is near-threatened), many seabird populations are declining, estuaries are becoming more polluted and habitat loss is widespread. In addition, offshore areas are increasingly unsafe for cetaceans: Since 2011 the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group has recorded a steady increase in whale and dolphin strandings around the Irish coastline, with 2021 on track to be the worst year on record. Entanglement in fishing gear and acoustic trauma are the two causes of death of most concern.

Globally, one of the biggest drivers of biodiversity loss is damage or destruction of habitat. Marine protected areas (MPAs) are one tool to help reverse this loss and we need them now. The report on expanding Ireland’s network of MPAs comes at a crucial time and I fully support the main recommendations.

The good bits

I particularly like the following recommendations:

  1. The ‘Systematic Conservation Planning’ approach;
  2. the establishment of a national coordinating body to coordinate the planning and implementation of MPAs;
  3. the emphasis on the importance of early and sustained stakeholder engagement throughout the MPA designation and management processes;
  4. and the recommendation that higher protection should be given to sharks, skates and rays and carbon rich habitats.

What’s missing?

  1. The report fails to make a clear recommendation that industrial and harmful human activities must be restricted in all MPAs, regardless of designation type (note the IUCN definition of industrial fishing encompasses all “commercial trawlers, purse seine vessels and large longliners”, as well as any “large profit-oriented vessels over 12 metres long and 6 metres wide.”). In addition to restricting industrial fishing, at least 1/3 of MPAs should be no-take zones to allow the most diverse ecosystems to recover (e.g. bivalve reefs, eelgrass and maërl beds, kelp forests) and benefit ocean productivity.
  2. The report should have highlighted the urgency with which the government must now act. The report does not include a timeline with indications of how long some processes may take, but the formation of new primary MPA legislation and negotiations over fishing access to Irish MPAs with other EU member states may take many years. If the government wants to increase MPA coverage more than 10-fold in this decade, time is of the essence!

 

  • OR, you can click here to open the public consultation’s website in order to fill in an anonymous survey. You can also download the full MPA report on this page.

Step 2: If you took part in the consultation, please tell us by filling out the quick form below.

Thank you for taking the time to participate.

 

 

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