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An ocean economist, who won the prestigious 2023 Tyler Prize for the Environment Award, has been announced as the keynote speaker for the inaugural Fair Seas World Ocean Day Conference next month.

Rashid Sumaila, Professor of Ocean and Fisheries Economics at the University of British Columbia, is a joint recipient of the 2023 award, often described as the ‘Nobel Prize for the Environment’ and will be addressing delegates at the World Ocean Day conference on issues of environmental financing, fisheries and ocean protection.

"To get to Infinity Fish from Vanishing Fish, we need to abandon the notion that we have to take everything everywhere all at once!”

The first-of-its-kind event at Cork City Hall on Thursday, June 8th will bring together ocean advocates, global experts, government, industry and key stakeholders. It aims to map out Ireland’s next steps for Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) focusing on designation, management and learning from best practice around the globe.

MPAs are areas of our seas and coasts legally protected from activities that damage the designated habitats, wildlife and natural processes that occur there. Ireland’s Marine Protected Areas Bill 2023 remains at the pre-legislative stage and Fair Seas, a coalition of Ireland’s leading environmental non-governmental organisations and networks, is calling for ambitious and effective legislation to be brought forward as soon as possible.

A number of national and international experts and stakeholders will address the conference, including:

  • Adrian Gahan, EU and UK Policy Director for National Geographic Pristine Seas;
  • Prof Mark Costello, an ecologist specialising in Marine Protected Areas and the effects of climate change on biodiversity, Nord University;
  • Dr Micheál Ó Cinnéide, former Director with the EPA, Marine Institute and policy advisor in the Department of the Marine;
  • Danni Washington, world-renowned television host and science communicator;
  • Brian MacSharry, Head of Group in the Biodiversity, Health and Resources Programme at the European Environment Agency in Copenhagen.

MC for the conference is author and co-founder of The Positive Economist Susan Hayes Culleton, CFA.

Aoife O’ Mahony, Campaign Manager for Fair Seas said, “We need action now to restore critical ocean habitats, safeguard wildlife and help address the climate crisis. Our World Ocean Day Conference is about learning from national and international experts and showing how we can apply best practice here. Prof Rashid Sumaila, our keynote speaker, was among the first to apply economic ideas like Game Theory to fisheries. He has shown how economics can help ensure that environmental resources are sustainably managed to benefit all generations. We’re honoured to have speakers from National Geographic Society, European Environment Agency, the Blue Marine Foundation and Ocean D’Azul joining us in Cork. We will also have inspirational addresses from special guests zooming in.”

Rashid Sumaila added, “To get to Infinity Fish from Vanishing Fish, we need to abandon the notion that we have to take everything everywhere all at once!”

Pádraic Fogarty, Campaigns Officer with the Irish Wildlife Trust said, “Ireland has long thought of itself as having waters rich in marine life but without meaningful protection this wealth will not endure. We can't lose any more time in the race to protect what's left and restore our seas to their former glory.”

The Fair Seas World Ocean Day Conference takes place at Cork City Hall from 9.30 am to 5.00 pm on Thursday, June 8th. Registration is now open with ticket prices starting from €75.00 for students, civil society and environmental non-governmental organisations. 

The LÉ Samuel Beckett will be quayside during the conference and will be open for tours for participants. The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group’s Celtic Mist will also be docked in Cork City to show how citizen science has collected data for decades to inform future decision-making and ocean conservation.

Published in Marine Science
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Fair Seas has been named a champion in Ireland’s efforts to become a world leader in reaching the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The coalition of leading environmental non-governmental organisations and networks is one of 26 organisations appointed by the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan TD.

Fair Seas is recognised for its ongoing work to protect, conserve and restore Ireland’s unique marine environment. Its objectives align closely with SDG 14, which is concerned with ‘Life Below Water’ and aims to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources. Fair Seas is campaigning for the Government to designate a minimum of 30% of Irish waters as Marine Protected Areas (MPA) by 2030. The Marine Protected Areas Bill 2023 is currently at the pre-legislative stage with further progress expected to be made before the Dáil’s summer recess.

In total, there are 17 interlinked SDGs, developed to transform our planet adopted by all 193 members of the United Nations in 2015. Between 2014 and 2015 Ireland co-led negotiations to agree the goals. The overall objective of the SDGs is to eradicate poverty, find sustainable and inclusive development solutions, meet everyone’s human rights, and ensure that no one is left behind.

Ireland’s SDG Champion Programme was developed to raise awareness of the goals and show how everyone in society can contribute to achieving them. Champions have been selected from the public, private, community, voluntary, youth and NGO sectors and are represented by larger, national organisations and smaller, community groups.

Aoife O’Mahony, Fair Seas Campaign Manager said, “We’re honoured to be selected as an SDG Champion for Ireland’s Life below Water. Our role over the next 12 months is to act as an advocate and promoter of the global goals and to show how we all can contribute to making our world a better place.”

She adds, “The work and aims of the Fair Seas campaign spans several SDGs including primarily SDG Life Below Water, but is also intrinsically linked to SDG 15 Life on Land, SDG 13 Climate Action and others. The ocean is the world’s largest ecosystem and absorbs around a quarter of global annual CO2 emissions, however in many parts and respects its health is in steep decline. Yet, we know that clean, healthy and productive seas are vital for healthy ecosystems, coastal communities and livelihoods. We’re continuing to build national and global partnerships to focus on the universal goal to conserve 30% of our ocean. By working cohesively together across counties and countries, we are encouraging a societal and participatory approach to achieving the SDG goals.”

Ireland will, for the first time in 5 years, present a Voluntary National Review of its SDG progress to the UN this July at the High Level Political Forum in New York.

Simon Berrow, CEO of Irish Whale and Dolphin Group highlights the importance of this role “SDGs are important markers of human endeavours to create a more equitable and fair society with functioning and thriving ecosystems that not only support human life but support the planet's biodiversity. We are all obliged to review our life and work with respect to SDGs.”

Earlier this year, Fair Seas successfully campaigned for the Greater Skellig Coast to become Ireland’s first Hope Spot. A large part of the southwest coast of Ireland was designated a Hope Spot by Mission Blue, joining a list of places like the Great Barrier Reef and the Galápagos Islands.

Published in Marine Wildlife
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A coalition of Ireland’s leading environmental non-governmental organisations and networks has signed up to a charter pledging to take concrete actions to protect our ocean and waters - one of the first 100 communities in Europe to do so.

Fair Seas has signed the European Mission “Restore our Ocean and Waters by 2030” which brings together member states, regions and a wide range of stakeholders with the common goal of making our oceans healthy again.

The European Commission is hosting a three-day hybrid event and conference in Cork this week in cooperation with Ireland Ministries and the National Maritime College of Ireland, Ringaskiddy. It is focusing on the political commitments to implement the Mission and agree measures to protect and restore marine and freshwater ecosystems and biodiversity as well as boosting coastal resilience.

Aoife O’ Mahony, Campaign Manager for Fair Seas, signed the Mission Charter and also addressed the Community Action session. Fair Seas is urging the Government to designate a minimum of 30% of Irish waters as Marine Protected Areas by 2030, up from the current figure of 2%.

Aoife O’Mahony said, “At Fair Seas, our aim is to protect, conserve and restore Ireland’s remarkable marine environment. We share the same goals as the European Mission and are delighted to become one of the first 100 communities to sign the charter. We want to build a movement of ocean stewardship in Ireland by highlighting the uniqueness and significance of our marine environment.. This new awareness of the wonder of our ocean has already increased awareness of Marine Protected Areas in Ireland, as seen in our recent consumer perception research and helps to build momentum around upcoming legislation. Ireland has a unique opportunity to learn from those who have gone before us and ensure we develop robust and flexible legislation that will protect our ocean for generations to come.”

A recent REDC survey of more than 1,000 people, carried out on behalf of the Fair Seas campaign, shows strong support for additional protections with four out of five people saying they would support a campaign to protect more of our seas.

Dr Peter Heffernan is a member of the European Commission's Mission Board ‘Restore Our Ocean and Waters by 2030’. He said, “The aim of this event is to mobilise a wide range of stakeholders to join the Mission. The Mission is highly ambitious and wants to protect a minimum of 30% of the EU’s sea area. A third of this area, representing 10% of the EU sea, should be strictly protected. These are areas of very high biodiversity and climate value. Ireland has an opportunity to engage in this ambitious mission and involve stakeholders from across the Island to support this restoration and conservation of our ocean and become a leader in Europe.”

The Fair Seas campaign is led by a coalition of Ireland’s leading environmental non-governmental organisations and networks including Irish Wildlife Trust, BirdWatch Ireland, Sustainable Water Network, Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, Coomhola Salmon Trust, Irish Environmental Network and Coastwatch.

Published in Fishing
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‘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 from the environmental coalition’s Regina Classen who will discuss the scientific background around her work on identifying Fair Seas’ suggested candidates for enhanced marine protections.

The group recommends that Ireland’s Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) must increase from the current 2.1% of coastal and offshore areas to 36%.

Last month it was reported that draft legislation to increase Ireland’s MPAs was “almost completed”. Heritage Malcolm Noonan said the first drafts of the bill “will set an ambition for Ireland to reach 30% MPAs”.

The event will also discuss whether there is any conflict between these MPA proposals and the growth of offshore wind energy projects that are expected to play a significant role in Ireland’s emission reduction plans.

The open event takes place next Wednesday 20 July at Fitzpatrick’s Castle in Killiney from 7.30pm to 9pm. Attendance is free but booking is essential, via the Eventbrite page HERE.

Published in Marine Planning

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 on the eve of the UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon, Portugal.

Ireland is being represented at the conference by Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform Malcolm Noonan.

Solutions for a sustainably managed ocean involving green technology, along with innovative uses of marine resources, are being discussed at the international gathering.

Fair Seas said that access to adequate funding and resources is “essential for small island states to tackle the myriad of ocean threats which impact local biodiversity and communities”.

“This substantial financial investment shows Ireland’s support for conserving ocean biodiversity globally, and Fair Seas look forward to seeing similar investments in marine conservation efforts at national level,” the network’s campaign manager Aoife O’Mahony said.

“The Irish Government has committed to protecting 30% of our ocean by 2030, yet progress towards that target is lacking, while 65% of monitored coastal habitats are in unfavourable condition,” Fair Seas noted.

“Ireland needs to turn the tide on this decline. By accelerating the conversation with stakeholders, local communities and groups on how it will introduce new marine protected areas (MPAs), Ireland will not only help achieve healthy and productive ecosystems locally but will be doing our bit for marine protection and conservation at the European and global level too,” it said.

Fair Seas has been campaigning for a network of MPAs covering at least 30 per cent of Irish waters by 2030.

The campaign is led by a coalition of environmental non-governmental organisations and networks including Irish Wildlife Trust, BirdWatch Ireland, Sustainable Water Network, Friends of the Irish Environment, Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, Coomhola Salmon Trust, Irish Environmental Network and Coastwatch.

The Fair Seas campaign is funded by Oceans 5, Blue Nature Alliance, BFCT and The Wyss Foundation.

Published in Marine Wildlife

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 Seas, a coalition of Ireland’s leading environmental NGOs and networks which recommends that MPAs here must increase from the current 2.1% of coastal and offshore areas to 36%.

The minister added that first drafts of the bill to legislate for further protections for marine wildlife and biodiversity “will set an ambition for Ireland to reach 30% MPAs”.

“We know that through our public consultation that there has been overwhelming support for this initiative,” Minister Noonan said. “We’re also saying MPAs don’t exist in isolation — they can exist with fishing communities and with other marine interests.”

The Irish Examiner has more on the story HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife

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

Published in Marine Wildlife
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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!