Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

First Designated Maritime Area Plan for ORE Published at MARA Launch in Wexford

13th July 2023
Rosslare Europort hosted the official launch of MARA on Thursday with Glenn Carr, Director Rosslare Europort  & Jim Meade, Chief Executive, IrishRail welcoming three government Ministers Darragh O'Brien, Simon Coveney and EamonRyan to the Terminal Building for the launch
Rosslare Europort hosted the official launch of MARA on Thursday with Glenn Carr, Director Rosslare Europort & Jim Meade, Chief Executive, IrishRail welcoming three government Ministers Darragh O'Brien, Simon Coveney and EamonRyan to the Terminal Building for the launch

The first designated maritime area plan (DMAP) for offshore renewable energy (ORE) has been published by Minister for Environment and Climate Eamon Ryan.

The minister announced a consultation on the next phase of offshore wind energy auctions, when he marked the establishment of the new Maritime Area Regulatory Authority (MARA) in Wexford today (Thurs July 13) with two Cabinet colleagues.

A summary engagement guide for interactions between the seafood industry and the ORE sector was also published at the event in Wexford.

Mr Ryan said the DMAPS will determine the broad area where ORE projects can be developed, and will act as a management plan for a specific area of our marine waters.

This first ORE DMAP for the south coast outlines an initial “proposed” geographical area within which future offshore renewable energy development may take place, according to the Department of Housing which is responsible for marine planning.

“This area will be refined through a process of public engagement and consultation, expert environmental impact assessments and other expert analysis of the maritime areas, to assess its suitability for offshore renewable energy development,”it says.

“Following a period of public engagement, a draft DMAP - which is anticipated to encompass a significantly smaller footprint than the initially outlined in proposal - will be published,” it says.

Maritime Area Regulatory Authority (MARA) Mark Mellett gives his  his launch speech in Wexford at Rosslare EuroportMaritime Area Regulatory Authority (MARA) Mark Mellett gives his his launch speech in Wexford at Rosslare Europort

“Following this, a further statutory public consultation will take place, before the draft DMAP is presented to the Minister for Housing and both houses of the Oireachtas for approval,” it says.

"Today marks the start of our new plan-led approach to the development of our offshore wind industry, which was supported by both houses of the Oireachtas,” Mr Ryan said.

“It also aligns us with the strategic direction being taken by the world’s leading offshore wind countries like Denmark and Scotland,” he said.

“ The rigorous legislative approach included within the south coast DMAP proposal will offer the best approach to protect local marine environments, fishing communities and boost local community development,”he said.

“It will offer comprehensive opportunities for public engagement, including the engagement of local communities,” he said.

The newly established authority, MARA, will be responsible for regulating development and activity in Ireland’s maritime area.

Its role will include assessing applications for maritime area consents (MACs), which are required before developers of offshore wind and other projects in the maritime area can make a planning application. It will also be responsible for granting licences for certain activities in the maritime area.

Minister for Housing Darragh O'Brien said that with MARA’s launch, “we now begin the second phase of our all-of-Government approach to the development of offshore renewable energy”.

“Delivery of offshore renewable energy will be crucial as we strive towards our climate goals over the next few years and MARA will provide the regulation and clarity that this emerging industry needs and govern our extensive maritime resource and contribute to our nation’s sustainable future,”he said.

MARA chief executive officer Laura Brien said that Ireland has “one of the highest sea-to-land ratios in Europe and today marks the beginning of an exciting new chapter in how Ireland will manage that resource”.

“MARA’s remit is wide-ranging reflecting the diverse marine resource that we will steward for this generation and the ones to come,”she said.

“ MARA is confident in our ability to support the governance of our maritime resources. In achieving this, we look forward to working with the wide range of stakeholders in the seafood, tourism, transportation as well as offshore renewable energy sectors to deliver on our role,”she said.

Mr Ryan said that the ORESS 2 consultation would “seek the views of stakeholders on key design principles to help ensure ORESS 2 auctions are attractive to the offshore wind industry, deliver a route to market for significant amounts of clean renewable energy, and ensure value for money for electricity consumers”.

“ORESS 2 auctions will be geographically aligned with available onshore grid capacity,”he said.

“Its first auction, ‘ORESS 2.1’, will see the development of offshore wind within an offshore renewable energy designated area - the south coast DMAP,”he said.

The consultation will run until Friday August 25th,and he said it is expected that ORESS 2.1 will launch before the end of this year or early next year.

A summary engagement guide for interactions between the seafood industry and the ORE sector, which has been published, aims to provide ORE project developers and the fishing/seafood sector with “guidance on how to “engage and co-exist in a constructive manner “throughthe lifecycle of an ORE project.

Seafood/ORE Working Group chairman Capt Robert McCabe said completion of the guide “represents a significant achievement in the managed introduction of ORE into Ireland’s maritime area”.

“I wish to commend the considerable efforts of the working group over the past year in finalising a comprehensive engagement guide within a challenging timeframe,”he said.

A national industrial strategy for offshore wind is also being developed, led by Minister for Enterprise Simon Coveney, and is expected to be published in the first quarter of 2024.

It will “complement the suite of upcoming government policies led by the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications through the Offshore Wind Delivery Taskforce”.

"Together with my colleagues across Government, I am committed to creating the environment that will allow a burgeoning offshore wind industry to develop and thrive,”Mr Coveney said.

“The provision of abundant, competitively priced renewable energy can be a key strategic competitive advantage for Ireland’s future reflecting the ambition as set out in my Department’s White Paper on Enterprise,”he said.

“On the path to that goal are a series of important policy, legislative, regulatory and infrastructural steps. Today marks one of those critical steps with the establishment of MARA,”he said.

Lorna Siggins

About The Author

Lorna Siggins

Email The Author

Lorna Siggins is a print and radio reporter, and a former Irish Times western correspondent. She is the author of Search and Rescue: True stories of Irish Air-Sea Rescues and the Loss of R116 (2022); Everest Callling (1994) on the first Irish Everest expedition; Mayday! Mayday! (2004); and Once Upon a Time in the West: the Corrib gas controversy (2010). She is also co-producer with Sarah Blake of the Doc on One "Miracle in Galway Bay" which recently won a Celtic Media Award

We've got a favour to ask

More people are reading than ever thanks to the power of the internet but we're in stormy seas because advertising revenues across the media are falling fast. Unlike many news sites, we haven’t put up a paywall because we want to keep our marine journalism open. is Ireland's only full–time marine journalism team and it takes time, money and hard work to produce our content.

So you can see why we need to ask for your help.

If everyone chipped in, we can enhance our coverage and our future would be more secure. You can help us through a small donation. Thank you.

Direct Donation to Afloat button

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