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South Coast Maritime Area Public Consultation Announced

2nd August 2023
The Geographical Area of the South Coast Offshore Renewable Energy Designated Maritime Area Plan proposal
The Geographical Area of the South Coast Offshore Renewable Energy Designated Maritime Area Plan proposal

The Minister for the Environment has urged local communities and various groups involved in existing maritime activities, including fishing and seafood production, throughout the South Coast to engage in public participation, which his Department has announced about the 8,600 square kilometres South Coast Designated Area.

The geographical area extends from the High-Water Mark on Ireland’s South Coast to the 80-metre depth contour and/or the edge of the Irish Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) has been identified by the Department of the Environment as the South Coast Designated Maritime Area Plan (DMAP) Proposal.

The Department has announced an eight-week public information process at coastal communities about the plan.

The Department says it is “seeking all views from interested citizens and impacted stakeholders, including local communities and community organisations, individual local participants or representative bodies from the fishing and seafood sector, environmental organisations, as well as business groups within counties Waterford, Wexford and Cork.

“We have opened an eight-week public information period which will include face-to-face public information events in a number of venues at coastal communities within counties Wexford, Waterford and Cork.

“The eight-week public information period will run until 26 September and include face-to-face public information events.

This follows the publication of the South Coast Designated Maritime Area Plan (DMAP) Proposal last month by Minister Eamon Ryan, which puts forward the initial ‘proposed’ geographical area within which future offshore renewable energy developments could be advanced. The Proposal Area will be “further refined following public engagement and environmental assessment,” according to the Department.

Further information relating to these events, it says, will be updated regularly and available on its website.

“The aim of this initial public information period is to gather stakeholder feedback on aspects of the South Coast Designated Maritime Area Plan (DMAP) Proposal and seek the views of local communities off Ireland’s South Coast to help determine where future offshore wind energy developments will take place. We are keen to hear from interested citizens and a range of stakeholders, including local community organisations, fishing communities, as well as environmental and business groups within counties Waterford, Wexford and Cork.”

The Department is asking the public to read the South Coast DMAP Proposal and to take part in an online survey, also available on its website. The closing date for submissions is Tuesday, 26 September 2023, at 5.30pm.

The establishment of a South Coast DMAP is part of the wider plan-led approach recently adopted by the Government to ensure sustainable offshore wind development.

“The State, in co-operation with local communities and with consideration for other maritime activities, including fishing and seafood production, and environmental protection, will determine the appropriate location for offshore wind developments. The marine area of the DMAP proposal will be further refined following this initial eight-week period of public engagement, which will include expert environmental impact assessments and analysis to assess its suitability for offshore renewable energy development,” the Department statement says.

Following this public information period, a ‘Draft DMAP’ will then be published in autumn 2023, which will identify specific areas for future offshore renewable energy development. The Draft DMAP and accompanying environmental assessments will then undergo a further six-week statutory public consultation period in the autumn, before the Draft DMAP is presented to the Minister for Housing and both houses of the Oireachtas for approval.

Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications Eamon Ryan, said: "I strongly encourage all interested citizens, local communities, and various groups involved in existing maritime activities, including fishing and seafood production, throughout the South Coast to engage in public participation opportunities that will contribute to establishment of the South Coast DMAP over the coming months.

"Future offshore wind energy development has the potential to offer enormous economic opportunities for Ireland’s coastal communities, in terms of jobs growth and local community development. This rigorous plan-led approach adopted by Government will also offer the best way to protect local marine environments while also boosting local community development.

“Further information relating to these upcoming events will be updated and available on the Department’s website here

Tom MacSweeney

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Tom MacSweeney

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Tom MacSweeney writes a column for He is former RTE Marine Correspondent/Presenter of Seascapes and now has a monthly Podcast on the Community Radio Network and Podcast services

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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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