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Government Concern Over Low Levels of Feedback from Fishing & Fish Farming on Marine Protected Area Consultation

23rd June 2021
Drakes Pool in Cork Harbour - The government aims to expand a network of MPAs to cover 30% of Ireland’s total maritime area of 488, 762 square kilometres by 2030
Drakes Pool in Cork Harbour - The government aims to expand a network of MPAs to cover 30% of Ireland’s total maritime area of 488, 762 square kilometres by 2030 Credit: Bob Bateman

Government officials seeking public views on an expansion of marine protected areas (MPAs) have expressed concern at the low level of feedback so far from the fishing and fish farming sectors.

Officials at the Department of Housing, Heritage and Local Government have also defended a government decision to publish legislation on marine planning separately to and well in advance of legislation on MPAs - stating that they involve two separate procedures.

Ireland’s first marine planning bill and a national marine planning framework are due to be published in Dublin on July 1st, while work on drawing up legislation for MPAs will only begin in the autumn.

Drafting of enabling legislation for MPAs is expected to take “most of 2022” to complete, department officials told a press briefing yesterday.

MPAs are geographically defined maritime areas with certain protections for conservation purposes.

The government aims to expand a network of MPAs to cover 30% of Ireland’s total maritime area of 488, 762 square kilometres by 2030 – in line with EU Biodiversity Strategy commitments to tackle climate change, the loss of biodiversity and the impact of pollution, including plastics and microplastics.

Up to 300 submissions had been received to date in the public consultation, which closes on July 30th.

A department consultant said that there was a “strong component” of online submissions from the environment and climate NGO sector.

However, he expressed concern that agriculture, aquaculture and fisheries were a “little under-represented”.

“So we are trying to focus some of our emphasis on reaching out and achieving a balance among wide range of occupations,” he said. 

Current Irish MPA coverage amounts to 2.13 per cent or 10,420 square kilometres, and existing legislation covers the 12-mile limit - but new legislation is required for offshore.

However, the definition of 30 per cent still had to be defined, as it may relate to spatial coverage or certain or all parts of a habitat for sensitive species, they said.

Nor will there be a “big reveal of a map”, as the procedure will be an ongoing one involving both scientific advice and stakeholder consultation, officials stressed.

Offshore wind farms will be in place before MPAs, but officials envisaged designation of sensitive habitats did not necessarily involve ceasing all activity therein.

Offshore wind farms would have a prohibition on bottom trawling, and thus the farms could “co-exist” with MPAs, the officials said.

The public consultation was initiated in February by housing, heritage and local government minister Darragh O’Brien and his junior counterpart Malcolm Noonan after publication of an expert advisory group report, chaired by Prof Tasman Crowe of University College, Dublin’s Earth Institute.

One of the report’s key recommendations was that legislation for MPAs would be required.

The report also considered the role of an additional type of managed site which can contribute to marine biodiversity and long-term area-based conservation.

These “other effective area-based conservation measures” can be used to protect historical wrecks, spawning/nursery grounds for commercial fish or manage renewable energy sites.

The department says that responses to the consultation will help “inform the process of defining and setting out in clear legal terms what types of ongoing area-based protection in the sea are appropriate for Ireland”.

The consultation will also inform “how coastal communities, sectoral interests and the wider public will be involved, and an expanded network of MPAs can be managed”, it says.

A link to the online survey on MPAs is here

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 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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Marine Wildlife Around Ireland One of the greatest memories of any day spent boating around the Irish coast is an encounter with marine wildlife.  It's a thrill for young and old to witness seabirds, seals, dolphins and whales right there in their own habitat. As boaters fortunate enough to have experienced it will testify even spotting a distant dorsal fin can be the highlight of any day afloat.  Was that a porpoise? Was it a whale? No matter how brief the glimpse it's a privilege to share the seas with Irish marine wildlife.

Thanks to the location of our beautiful little island, perched in the North Atlantic Ocean there appears to be no shortage of marine life to observe.

From whales to dolphins, seals, sharks and other ocean animals this page documents the most interesting accounts of marine wildlife around our shores. We're keen to receive your observations, your photos, links and youtube clips.

Boaters have a unique perspective and all those who go afloat, from inshore kayaking to offshore yacht racing that what they encounter can be of real value to specialist organisations such as the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) who compile a list of sightings and strandings. The IWDG knowledge base has increased over the past 21 years thanks in part at least to the observations of sailors, anglers, kayakers and boaters.

Thanks to the IWDG work we now know we share the seas with dozens of species who also call Ireland home. Here's the current list: Atlantic white-sided dolphin, beluga whale, blue whale, bottlenose dolphin, common dolphin, Cuvier's beaked whale, false killer whale, fin whale, Gervais' beaked whale, harbour porpoise, humpback whale, killer whale, minke whale, northern bottlenose whale, northern right whale, pilot whale, pygmy sperm whale, Risso's dolphin, sei whale, Sowerby's beaked whale, sperm whale, striped dolphin, True's beaked whale and white-beaked dolphin.

But as impressive as the species list is the IWDG believe there are still gaps in our knowledge. Next time you are out on the ocean waves keep a sharp look out!

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