Bigger and Better

A marine protected area network for Ireland

Heavy human use of the marine environment has left our seas in a poor condition. Fishing and aquaculture are but two of the many stressors threatening marine ecosystems every day. Add climate change, noise, plastic and chemical pollution to the mix and you have a recipe for disaster.

In order to avert this disaster, many international agreements were set up to better protect the environment. For example, Ireland signed the Convention on Biological Diversity thereby committing to protect 10% of our marine area by 2020. So far, we have protected only 2%.

See maps of Irish marine protected areas in the inshore region:


and a full map of Irish MPAs:


Marine protected areas (MPAs) are a proven way to achieve much needed ecosystem restoration, sustainable fishing and climate change mitigation. In theory, MPAs provide safe havens for animals and plants to grow and reproduce without the threat of human activity. Such havens are vital if marine ecosystems are to withstand all the additional pressures they face day to day.

In practice, however, many harmful human activities are still taking place inside MPAs with little or no monitoring or enforcement. This needs to change.

We want real protection within Ireland’s marine area and we need bigger and better MPAs to achieve this.

For this purpose, we are working with Coastwatch and Seas at Risk as part of a larger European campaign. Together with partner organisations in Portugal (Sciaena) and France (FNE), we hope to preserve precious ecosystems in European waters for future generations. This will give our seas spaces to breathe while we work on reducing additional stressors such as climate change and pollution.

For questions about this project and what you can do to help our oceans, contact us at or sign up here for our Bigger and Better Marine Protected Areas newsletter. For more information on MPAs please see our MPA report here.



Razor shell dredging halted in Waterford Estuary – Coastwatch successfully challenged the process by which the fishery was opened and the case will be mentioned in the High Court in March 2020. Read more here: RAZOR SHELL DREDGING IN IRELAND briefing KD after day 3 High court