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Marine Planning and Marine Protected Areas
A message in the sand calling for 30% of Ireland's seas to be protected by 2030 to give our species, habitats and coastal communities the opportunity to thrive
The Irish government has come under fire from environmental groups for failing to introduce the Marine Protected Areas Bill, which would commit to effectively protecting 30% of Ireland's seas by 2030, as promised since July 2023. The Fair Seas coalition,…
A geographer has been awarded €300,000 in funding to lead the Irish stage of a European project aiming to boost the transformation towards a “climate neutral” blue economy. Dr John Morrissey, lecturer in geography at Limerick’s Mary Immaculate College, will…
Powering Prosperity – Ireland’s Offshore Wind Industrial Strategy
Powering Prosperity – Ireland’s Offshore Wind Industrial Strategy, the first strategy of its kind for Ireland, aims to build a successful, vibrant and impactful offshore wind energy industry in Ireland. This will ensure that the sector creates as much value…
'A Climate-resilient Path for Ireland's Marine Protected Areas' - pictured are Jack O’Donovan Trá, Fair Seas Communications Officer; Dr Donal Griffin, Fair Seas coordinator; and Grace Carr, Marine Advocacy Officer for The Irish Wildlife Trust
Irish marine areas that can promote biodiversity in the face of worsening climate change have been identified in a new report by Fair Seas, a coalition of leading environmental NGOs and networks. The report commissioned research to determine the areas…
The Marine Institute’s new chief executive, Dr Rick Officer
Good news – there is a sustained trend towards improvement in fish stocks in Irish waters, the Marine Institute’s new chief executive, Dr Rick Officer says. Speaking to Wavelengths, he says “huge credit” is due to Irish fishers for weathering…
Windfarms & Wildlife: Protecting the Bay’s Habitats — Uncover the Realities, Explore the Concerns
Join the conversation on Ireland’s offshore wind challenges at a public information meeting at the Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel in Killiney this Tuesday 12 March at 7.30pm. Hosted in association with Dalkey Community Council and Killiney Bay Community Council, ‘Windfarms &…
Laura Brien is the chief executive of the Maritime Area Regulatory Authority (MARA)
There will be “no hierarchy” of access to Ireland’s sea areas under its new maritime licensing system, the head of the new Maritime Area Regulatory Authority (MARA) has said. MARA chief executive officer Laura Brien was speaking at the third…
Campaign Manager of the environmental group Fair Seas - Dr Donal Griffin
“It is not good enough to designate parts of the marine environment as conservation areas without talking to the people, groups and businesses which use and depend on an area for their livelihoods and recreation.” That comment from the Campaign…
Maritime Area Regulatory Authority (MARA) logo
The Maritime Area Regulatory Authority (MARA) is currently in the process of developing its first statement of strategy for the period 2024-2027. A key priority of this process is to garner the views and input of key stakeholders through consultation.…
The Marine Institute has released a new high-resolution geomorphology map for most of the Irish continental shelf to support ocean science, environment and biodiversity management and offshore renewable energy development
The Marine Institute has released a new high-resolution geomorphology map on Ireland’s Marine Atlas for most of the Irish continental shelf to support ocean science, environment and biodiversity management and offshore renewable energy development. Geomorphology is the scientific study of…
A Puffin on the Saltee Islands off County Wexford
The seas off Wexford have been designated as a proposed new special protection area (SPA) for birds by Minister of State for Heritage Malcolm Noonan. The new SPA adjoins eight existing SPAs designated for this area and will cover over…
An example of an offshore wind farm at Teeside on England’s North Sea coast
Ireland is well placed to seize the opportunities presented by a boon in offshore projects, according to the head of the National Maritime College of Ireland (NMCI). Speaking to The Journal ahead of the NMCI’s third annual Seafarers’ Conference next…
Rosslare Europort - the Design Contract has been awarded for the Offshore Renewable Energy Hub at the County Wexford port
Rosslare Europort has announced two major milestones in the Co Wexford port’s progress towards becoming Ireland’s 'Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Hub'. The Port Authority Iarnród Éireann today formally applied to the new Maritime Area Regulatory Authority (MARA) for Marine Area…
Fishermen will be consulted about the development of offshore wind energy areas
Co-operation, mutual understanding and respect amongst all involved in offshore wind energy development is the best way forward for this island nation. It is a welcome and important step in this process and the protection of traditional fishing grounds that…
Greater detail and certainty on the location of offshore renewable energy (ORE) off the Irish coast were among key issues raised during public consultation on the State’s draft second ORE development plan
Greater detail and certainty on the location of offshore renewable energy (ORE) off the Irish coast and greater alignment with relevant policies and plans were among key issues raised during public consultation on the State’s draft second ORE development plan.…
Enterprise Ireland Offshore Wind Forum 2023 banner
Enterprise Ireland will host the third Enterprise Ireland Offshore Wind Forum in Croke Park next Tuesday (28 November), featuring an address from Simon Coveney TD, Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment. This one-day knowledge and networking event will convene the…

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) - FAQS

Marine protected areas (MPAs) are geographically defined maritime areas where human activities are managed to protect important natural or cultural resources. In addition to conserving marine species and habitats, MPAs can support maritime economic activity and reduce the effects of climate change and ocean acidification.

MPAs can be found across a range of marine habitats, from the open ocean to coastal areas, intertidal zones, bays and estuaries. Marine protected areas are defined areas where human activities are managed to protect important natural or cultural resources.

The world's first MPA is said to have been the Fort Jefferson National Monument in Florida, North America, which covered 18,850 hectares of sea and 35 hectares of coastal land. This location was designated in 1935, but the main drive for MPAs came much later. The current global movement can be traced to the first World Congress on National Parks in 1962, and initiation in 1976 of a process to deliver exclusive rights to sovereign states over waters up to 200 nautical miles out then began to provide new focus

The Rio ‘Earth Summit’ on climate change in 1992 saw a global MPA area target of 10% by the 2010 deadline. When this was not met, an “Aichi target 11” was set requiring 10% coverage by 2020. There has been repeated efforts since then to tighten up MPA requirements.

Marae Moana is a multiple-use marine protected area created on July 13th 2017 by the government of the Cook islands in the south Pacific, north- east of New Zealand. The area extends across over 1.9 million square kilometres. However, In September 2019, Jacqueline Evans, a prominent marine biologist and Goldman environmental award winner who was openly critical of the government's plans for seabed mining, was replaced as director of the park by the Cook Islands prime minister’s office. The move attracted local media criticism, as Evans was responsible for developing the Marae Moana policy and the Marae Moana Act, She had worked on raising funding for the park, expanding policy and regulations and developing a plan that designates permitted areas for industrial activities.

Criteria for identifying and selecting MPAs depends on the overall objective or direction of the programme identified by the coastal state. For example, if the objective is to safeguard ecological habitats, the criteria will emphasise habitat diversity and the unique nature of the particular area.

Permanence of MPAs can vary internationally. Some are established under legislative action or under a different regulatory mechanism to exist permanently into the future. Others are intended to last only a few months or years.

Yes, Ireland has MPA cover in about 2.13 per cent of our waters. Although much of Ireland’s marine environment is regarded as in “generally good condition”, according to an expert group report for Government published in January 2021, it says that biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation are of “wide concern due to increasing pressures such as overexploitation, habitat loss, pollution, and climate change”.

The Government has set a target of 30 per cent MPA coverage by 2030, and moves are already being made in that direction. However, environmentalists are dubious, pointing out that a previous target of ten per cent by 2020 was not met.

Conservation and sustainable management of the marine environment has been mandated by a number of international agreements and legal obligations, as an expert group report to government has pointed out. There are specific requirements for area-based protection in the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD), the OSPAR Convention, the UN Convention on Biological Diversity and the UN Sustainable Development Goals. 

Yes, the Marine Strategy Framework directive (2008/56/EC) required member states to put measures in place to achieve or maintain good environmental status in their waters by 2020. Under the directive a coherent and representative network of MPAs had to be created by 2016.

Ireland was about halfway up the EU table in designating protected areas under existing habitats and bird directives in a comparison published by the European Commission in 2009. However, the Fair Seas campaign, an environmental coalition formed in 2022, points out that Ireland is “lagging behind “ even our closest neighbours, such as Scotland which has 37 per cent. The Fair Seas campaign wants at least 10 per cent of Irish waters to be designated as “fully protected” by 2025, and “at least” 30 per cent by 2030.

Nearly a quarter of Britain’s territorial waters are covered by MPAs, set up to protect vital ecosystems and species. However, a conservation NGO, Oceana, said that analysis of fishing vessel tracking data published in The Guardian in October 2020 found that more than 97% of British MPAs created to safeguard ocean habitats, are being dredged and bottom trawled. 

There’s the rub. Currently, there is no definition of an MPA in Irish law, and environment protections under the Wildlife Acts only apply to the foreshore.

Current protection in marine areas beyond 12 nautical miles is limited to measures taken under the EU Birds and Habitats Directives or the OSPAR Convention. This means that habitats and species that are not listed in the EU Directives, but which may be locally, nationally or internationally important, cannot currently be afforded the necessary protection

Yes. In late March 2022, Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien said that the Government had begun developing “stand-alone legislation” to enable identification, designation and management of MPAs to meet Ireland’s national and international commitments.

Yes. Environmental groups are not happy, as they have pointed out that legislation on marine planning took precedence over legislation on MPAs, due to the push to develop offshore renewable energy.

No, but some activities may be banned or restricted. Extraction is the main activity affected as in oil and gas activities; mining; dumping; and bottom trawling

The Government’s expert group report noted that MPA designations are likely to have the greatest influence on the “capture fisheries, marine tourism and aquaculture sectors”. It said research suggests that the net impacts on fisheries could ultimately be either positive or negative and will depend on the type of fishery involved and a wide array of other factors.

The same report noted that marine tourism and recreation sector can substantially benefit from MPA designation. However, it said that the “magnitude of the benefits” will depend to a large extent on the location of the MPA sites within the network and the management measures put in place.

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