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Marine Planning and Marine Protected Areas
File image of the Custom House in Dublin
The State is recruiting for a chief executive designate/chief executive officer for the Maritime Area Regulatory Authority (MARA), which will be responsible for regulating marine planning development and activity in Ireland’s maritime area. Reporting to the board of MARA, the CEO…
National Ports Study - It claims to be the most detailed analysis ever conducted on the readiness of Irish ports for the development of offshore renewable energy
Belfast is the only port on the island of Ireland which is ready to construct offshore wind farms, according to a new study published by Wind Energy Ireland. The national ports study published at the body’s annual offshore wind energy…
Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Darragh O’Brien
The Government has approved development of a general scheme of a Bill for designation and management of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in Ireland’s maritime territory. The approval has been welcomed by Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Darragh O’Brien,…
The north Donegal coast has been identified by the Fair Seas coalition as a high biodiversity “Area of Interest” for potential Marine Protected Area (MPA) designation
The north Donegal coast has been identified by the Fair Seas coalition as a high biodiversity “Area of Interest” for potential Marine Protected Area (MPA) designation. Only 2% of Irelands' seas are currently protected. The Fair Seas environmental NGO coalition…
Early and better stakeholder consultation on offshore wind installation is vital, and more quantitative studies are needed to assess the monetary loss to fishing, a European Commission official has told an international workshop. The workshop also heard how underwater noise…
Inshore sprat fishing
The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine is inviting submissions from stakeholders on the draft Seafood Development Programme 2021-27. Potential funding of up to €258.4 million for Ireland’s seafood and marine sector may be available for the programme under…
Winds of Change at Sea poster
‘Winds of Change at Sea’ is the title of an open public discussion on the future of our seas in Killiney next week. Hosted by Fair Seas alongside Killiney Bay Community Council and Dalkey Community Council, the event will hear…
Doo Lough Valley in County Mayo
The Sustainable Water Network (SWAN) has said swimmers, surfers, kayakers and parents have a stake in the success of the third river basin management plan currently being finalised by the Government. The network of 25 environmental NGOS has initiated a…
The project on the Codling Bank in the Irish Sea is about 13 km off the east coast, close to Wicklow
The Codling Wind Park has submitted its application for a maritime area consent (MAC) as part of the Government’s streamlined procedure for marine planning. The renewable energy project on the Codling Bank in the Irish Sea is about 13 km…
Ireland is being represented at the UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon, Portugal by Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform Malcolm Noonan
The Fair Seas campaign has welcomed Ireland’s contribution of almost 10 million euro to address ocean challenges faced by developing countries, including small island developing states. The funding was confirmed earlier this week by Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney…
AQUAMIS screenshot
Marine Minister Charlie McConalogue today (Tuesday 28 June) announced the launch of Phase 1 of the new state-of-the-art Aquaculture Information Management System (AQUAMIS). The online viewer was developed as part of Phase 1 of this project, which will develop an…
False Bay in County Galway
The European Commission is proposing to set legally binding nature restoration targets on both sea and land. The Nature Restoration Law will apply to every EU member state and will complement existing laws and targets. The proposal has been welcomed…
Heritage Minister Malcolm Noonan
Draft legislation to designate almost a third of Ireland’s waters as marine protected areas (MPAs) is “almost completed”, the Heritage Minister has said. Minister Malcolm Noonan told the Irish Examiner last week that his department would meet “shortly” with Fair…
National Marine Planning Framework Public Consultation Report 2021 is downloadable below
New objectives on energy and on the role of the fishing industry in food security are among changes to the National Marine Planning Framework (NMPF) which are outlined in a consultation document. The NMPF public consultation was twice extended due…
Master mariner Capt Robert McCabe
Master mariner Capt Robert McCabe has been appointed to chair the Government’s first seafood/offshore renewable energy working group. The two-year appointment was confirmed by Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Darragh O’Brien. Delays in establishing the working group had…
Grace O'Sullivan
The Irish Wildlife Trust has welcomed a European Parliament report calling for action on bottom trawling but has questioned why most MEPs did not support a ban on the fishing technique in marine protected areas (MPAs). A report by Portuguese…

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.

© Afloat 2022

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