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New "Fair Seas" Environmental Network Demanding Increase in Irish Marine Protected Areas

23rd February 2022

A newly formed Irish environmental coalition says it is “demanding” a fifteen-fold increase in Ireland’s marine protected areas (MPAs).

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.

“Today Ireland’s MPA coverage is at a mere 2.13% lagging behind even our closest neighbours in Scotland at 37%,” the campaign says.

“Ireland has not met its previous target of 10% protection by 2020,” it says warning that “Fair Seas will hold the government to account so it does not miss its upcoming targets”.

Minke Whale, Photo: Pádraig Whooley, IWDGMinke Whale, Photo: Pádraig Whooley, IWDG

“Ireland’s maritime area is seven times the size of our landmass and is home to spectacular wildlife including endangered basking sharks, humpback whales, blue whales, otters, seals, puffins and even deep-sea coral reefs,” the campaign says.

It aims to see Ireland becoming a “world leader in marine protection, giving our species, habitats and coastal communities the opportunity to thrive”.

MPAs, which give legal protection to the conservation of species and habitats, are a “vital tool” in improving ocean health, it says.

Common dolphins Photo: Sibéal Regan, IWDGCommon dolphins Photo: Sibéal Regan, IWDG

The Fair Seas campaign says it will publish its first expert report, underpinned by scientific data, this summer, and this will identify where it believes MPAs should be designated.

Legislation for the designation and management of MPAs is currently being drafted and the Heads of Bill is expected before Government in December 2022.

“In January 2022 Ireland showed its passion for the ocean by speaking out against Russian missile testing,” Fair Seas campaign manager Aoife O’Mahony said.

Puffin Photo: George KarbusPuffin Photo: George Karbus

“Voices from the fishing industry, government, environmental groups and the public were all echoing the need to protect our marine biodiversity and commercially important fish stocks. Fair Seas is calling on those same voices to ask the Irish government to follow up and secure a network of effective well-managed MPAs,” she said.

“Fair Seas is a new and inclusive approach to environmental campaigning,” Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) co-ordinator Dr Simon Berrow said.

The IWDG is part of the new coalition, along with the Irish Wildlife Trust, BirdWatch Ireland, Coastwatch, Coomhola Salmon Trust, Friends of the Irish Environment, SWAN and the Irish Environmental Network

Fair Seas says it is funded by Oceans 5, the Becht Family Charitable Trust, Blue Nature Alliance and WyssFoundation.

Humpback Whale - common dolphin Photo: Daniella Morgernstern, IWDGHumpback Whale and a common dolphin Photo: Daniella Morgernstern, IWDG

Lorna Siggins

About The Author

Lorna Siggins

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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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