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Maritime Area Planning Bill is Not Solely Designed “to Help the Offshore Renewable Sector Get What it Needs”, Warns Coastwatch's Karin Dubsky

3rd September 2021

The new Maritime Area Planning Bill is not solely designed “to help the offshore renewable sector get what it needs”, Coastwatch co-ordinator Karin Dubsky has warned.

The legislation, which marks a first for the State in marine planning, is “for all of us, and we have to watch that there isn’t a shortcut”, Dubsky said.

Her environmental group has called on the Government to specify protection of seagrass beds in the new legislation which comes before the Oireachtas this term.

Seagrass or Zostera marina is the inshore equivalent of coral reefs or tropical rainforests in nurturing habitats for diverse species and helping to filter sediments and keep shorelines stable.

“Seagrass can be found in sandy, muddy areas, such as near the high tide mark in Sligo. Short seagrass lawns have been well studied by the Environmental Protection Authority,”Dubsky said.

“The seagrass meadows rich in molluscs, fish and lobster are more difficult to find and the roots of this grass like to find shelter and clean water,”she said.

“Seagrass is incredibly important for climate change adaptation, and the meadows are totally understudied in Ireland,”she said

“Present legislation is chaotic, so it needs to be listed and mapped for protection,”she said.

“If the new Bill can state that seagrass is protected wherever it occurs, that would be very positive, “she said

Several Irish seagrass habitats are threatened by an invasive species known as “wire weed” or Sargassum muticum, she explained.

“These are some of our most valuable blue carbon habitats”, Dubsky said.

She hosted a special event at St Patrick’s Bridge near Kilmore Quay in Co Wexford last week to highlight the issue.

The new Maritime Area Planning Bill is geared to ensure regulated development of offshore wind farms, but gives local authorities a role in managing inshore coastal areas, she pointed out.

By specifying certain habitats requiring protection, this would empower local authorities to protect seagrass and to remove invasive species like Sargassum muticum, Dubsky said.

Seagrass beds in Co Wexford, in Bantry Bay, Co Cork and at Fenit in Tralee bay, Co Kerry are at risk from the invasive species, which is at its most dense in May and June, she said.

She said the protection needs to be acted upon now, as planned separate legislation on marine protected areas could take some years.

“There is huge potential to get things right, but also a huge potential to miss the boat as there is so much marine and coastal development now,”she said.

Karin Dubsky spoke to Wavelengths below

Published in Wavelength Podcast
Lorna Siggins

About The Author

Lorna Siggins

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Lorna Siggins is a print and radio reporter, and a former Irish Times western correspondent. She is the author of Everest Callling (1994) on the first Irish Everest expedition; Mayday! Mayday! (2004) on Irish helicopter search and rescue; and Once Upon a Time in the West: the Corrib gas controversy (2010).

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Afloat's Wavelengths Podcast with Lorna Siggins

Weekly dispatches from the Irish coast with journalist Lorna Siggins, talking to people in the maritime sphere. Topics range from marine science and research to renewable energy, fishing, aquaculture, archaeology, history, music and more...

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