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Displaying items by tag: Marine Protected Areas

Ireland has joined an international agreement to establish a marine protected area (MPA) in the North Atlantic Current and Evlanov sea basin.

The area is located in the high seas, to the west of the Ospar maritime area in the north-east Atlantic.

It covers 595,196 km² - over eight times the size of Ireland’s land area.

The designated area is home to up to five million seabirds across 21 different species, including five – such as the Atlantic Puffin – that are globally threatened.

Other threatened species, like the wide-ranging Basking Shark and Leatherback Turtle, also inhabit the ocean area.

Ireland’s commitment to the new MPA was announced on Friday by Minister of State for Heritage and Reform Malcolm Noonan at an Ospar ministerial meeting in Cascais, Portugal.

The Ospar Commission for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic, an international organisation, has been chaired by Ireland since 2018.

The commission also approved a North-East Atlantic Environment Strategy.

It has 12 strategic objectives and over 50 practical, operational objectives to tackle the triple challenges of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution (including marine litter) facing the oceans,Mr Noonan said.

Its implementation will be part of Ospar’s contribution to the achievement of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Noonan said.

Published in Marine Wildlife

Two Government ministers have called on people to give their views on the expansion of Ireland’s marine protected areas (MPAs) before the deadline at the end of this week.

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien and Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform Malcolm Noonan issued the appeal with five days to go to close of submissions this Friday, July 30th.

MPAs are geographically defined maritime areas with certain protections for conservation purposes. The Government aims to expand Ireland’s MPA network from 2.13% to 30% of Ireland’s maritime area by 2030.

“Expanding Ireland’s MPA network will constitute a major change in marine environmental protection in Ireland. At present, there is no definition of an MPA in Irish law. Environmental protections under the Wildlife Acts only apply to the foreshore. Protection in marine areas beyond 12 nautical miles is limited, both in terms of space and species,”the two ministers state.

They have asked members of the public, stakeholders, industries and others for their views on the final report of the MPA advisory group, which was chaired by Prof Tasman Crowe of UCD’s Earth Institute.

The reports note that in addition to conserving marine species and habitats, MPAs can support maritime economic activity and reduce the effects of climate change and ocean acidification.

The report quotes economic data showing Ireland’s ocean economy has a turnover of €6.2 billion and provides stable, sustainable work for 34,132 full-time equivalent employees.

“Ireland, along with the rest of the world, faces the twin crises of climate change and accelerating biodiversity loss on land and at sea,” O’Brien said.

“The Government has a vision of clean, healthy, diverse and productive oceans and seas around Ireland. Over the last five months we have received a strong number of submissions, from a range of groups and people of all ages and backgrounds, on the advisory group’s report on progressing our vision of healthier seas,” he said.

"The submissions we receive now will inform our legislation on the identification, designation and management of MPAs. That work will begin later this year,” he said.

The Government recently published Ireland’s first National Marine Planning Framework and approved the Maritime Area Planning Bill.

It proposes to establish in law a new development consent regime for the maritime area.

Both the new forward planning model, envisaged by the Bill, and an expanded MPA network, will secure the NMPF’s objectives, the ministers state.

Published in Coastal Notes
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 With just ten days to go in the public consultation on marine protected areas, An Taisce’s Clean Coasts programme is reminding people to “have their say”.

Ireland currently protects just over two per cent of territorial waters, and the Government has committed to expand this to ten per cent “ as soon as is practical”.

The Government aims to have 30 per cent of waters designated as marine protected areas (MPAs) by 2030.

A public consultation on MPAs initiated by Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien and Minister of State for Heritage Malcolm Noonan closes on Friday, July 31st at 5 pm.

Clean Coasts is hosting a workshop this Thursday, July 22nd to address any issues arising from the public consultation.

It says that scientific research shows that MPAs – as in areas of the ocean where certain activities are not allowed or strictly regulated - are one of the most beneficial tools to safeguarding the ocean, protecting biodiversity and increasing fish stocks.

Noonan has added his voice this week to the Clean Coasts appeal for public participation,

“We’re still fortunate in Ireland to have a productive, awe-inspiring and beautiful marine environment. But that environment is under increasing threat,” he has said.

“You have a vital role to play in shaping its future. I’m asking you to act now and have your say in how we protect our seas and ocean - in the short term and in the long term,” he has said.

Clean Coasts is a charity programme, run through An Taisce’s environmental education unit, and engages communities in the protection of Ireland’s beaches, seas and marine life.

Currently, there are over 1400 registered Clean Coasts volunteering groups, which participate in. hundreds of beach clean-ups and remove considerable quantities of marine litter from shorelines and waterways.

Book a spot for the Clean Coasts workshop here

The MPA public consultation is here

Published in Environment

Sandycove’s young beach cleaner Flossie Donnelly joined a protest at the Dáil yesterday (Wednesday 7 July) calling for Government action to protect Ireland’s marine environment.

The Irish Wildlife Trust and members of the activist network Extinction Rebellion were also present at the demonstration marching to the gates of Leinster House, as the Irish Examiner reports.

And a spokesperson for the former warned that Ireland’s inshore waters “are under immense pressure” from pollution and fishing activities.

The protest comes just days after the Government launched its National Marine Planning Framework and published the Maritime Area Planning Bill, and weeks ahead of the closing date in a public consultation on expanding Ireland’s Marine Protected Areas that’s been welcomed by organisations such as the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group.

As reported on Afloat.ie, Government officials recently expressed concerns at the low level of feedback from stakeholders in the fishing and aquaculture sectors.

Published in Environment
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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

Published in Marine Wildlife
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The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) says it welcomes the new public consultation on expanding Ireland’s Marine Protected Areas.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, the Government is aiming to have 30% of Ireland’s maritime area designated as Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) by 2030.

Current coverage is just 2.13%, the IWDG says, adding that there is at present no definition of an MPA in Irish law.

“We wish to see Ireland achieve their international commitments and legal obligations, and create a truly ecologically coherent network of well-managed and well resourced MPAs, that is representative and connected,” says Sibéal Regan, the IWDG’s Education and Outreach Officer.

“In that case, it must be defined and underpinned by the appropriate legislation.”

It’s also hoped that expanding Ireland’s designated conservation areas for marine wildlife will protect core habitats from encroachment by human activity such as fishing.

Research commissioned by the IWDG has identified a number of hotspots for dolphins, porpoise and whales within Ireland’s 12-nautical-mile limit.

These have informed the group’s recommendations for potential MPA sites around the coast, available on the IWDG website here.

Published in Marine Wildlife

The global climate crisis and how it relates to biodiversity and ocean protection is a big topic for discussion at a two-day conference in Trinity College Dublin which starts tomorrow (Monday 2 September).

The ‘Bigger and Better’ Marine Protected Area Conference is co-hosted by Coastwatch Ireland and the Irish Wildlife Trust (IWT), who highlight that Ireland has protected only a fraction of its waters as pledged by 2020.

It will bring together Government officials with international speakers and experts to explore the reasons for Ireland’s “poor performance” when it comes to protecting our seas.

“Ireland is a laggard in providing the protections required to restore our ocean’s health,” said IWT campaign officer Pádraic Fogarty.

“MPAs [Marine Protected Areas] are now widely applied across the world as a tool in protecting biodiversity and ocean ecosystems.

“As an island nation we really should be at the forefront of this effort – not at the back of the class.”

Tickets for the conference are available from Eventbrite.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MarineWildlife - The Seanad today (Wednesday 23 May) is expected to hear a motion calling for the declaration of coastal areas around Ireland has ‘marine protected areas’ or MPAs.

According to The Irish Times, the motion is being tabled by Senator Grace O’Sullivan of the Green Party, who wants the Government to protect half of the waters around the country under “community-driven MPAs” with fishermen and conversationists alike at the heart of the process.

Senator O’Sullivan says a number of zones identified by the Marine Institute as particularly vulnerable to overfishing should be designated first.

Padraic Fogarty of the Irish Wildlife Trust, which supports the motion, suggests that most bays and estuaries around Ireland should be covered by the proposal.

The Irish Times has more on the story HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife
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Irish Fishing industry 

The Irish Commercial Fishing Industry employs around 11,000 people in fishing, processing and ancillary services such as sales and marketing. The industry is worth about €1.22 billion annually to the Irish economy. Irish fisheries products are exported all over the world as far as Africa, Japan and China.

FAQs

Over 16,000 people are employed directly or indirectly around the coast, working on over 2,000 registered fishing vessels, in over 160 seafood processing businesses and in 278 aquaculture production units, according to the State's sea fisheries development body Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM).

All activities that are concerned with growing, catching, processing or transporting fish are part of the commercial fishing industry, the development of which is overseen by BIM. Recreational fishing, as in angling at sea or inland, is the responsibility of Inland Fisheries Ireland.

The Irish fishing industry is valued at 1.22 billion euro in gross domestic product (GDP), according to 2019 figures issued by BIM. Only 179 of Ireland's 2,000 vessels are over 18 metres in length. Where does Irish commercially caught fish come from? Irish fish and shellfish is caught or cultivated within the 200-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ), but Irish fishing grounds are part of the common EU "blue" pond. Commercial fishing is regulated under the terms of the EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), initiated in 1983 and with ten-yearly reviews.

The total value of seafood landed into Irish ports was 424 million euro in 2019, according to BIM. High value landings identified in 2019 were haddock, hake, monkfish and megrim. Irish vessels also land into foreign ports, while non-Irish vessels land into Irish ports, principally Castletownbere, Co Cork, and Killybegs, Co Donegal.

There are a number of different methods for catching fish, with technological advances meaning skippers have detailed real time information at their disposal. Fisheries are classified as inshore, midwater, pelagic or deep water. Inshore targets species close to shore and in depths of up to 200 metres, and may include trawling and gillnetting and long-lining. Trawling is regarded as "active", while "passive" or less environmentally harmful fishing methods include use of gill nets, long lines, traps and pots. Pelagic fisheries focus on species which swim close to the surface and up to depths of 200 metres, including migratory mackerel, and tuna, and methods for catching include pair trawling, purse seining, trolling and longlining. Midwater fisheries target species at depths of around 200 metres, using trawling, longlining and jigging. Deepwater fisheries mainly use trawling for species which are found at depths of over 600 metres.

There are several segments for different catching methods in the registered Irish fleet – the largest segment being polyvalent or multi-purpose vessels using several types of gear which may be active and passive. The polyvalent segment ranges from small inshore vessels engaged in netting and potting to medium and larger vessels targeting whitefish, pelagic (herring, mackerel, horse mackerel and blue whiting) species and bivalve molluscs. The refrigerated seawater (RSW) pelagic segment is engaged mainly in fishing for herring, mackerel, horse mackerel and blue whiting only. The beam trawling segment focuses on flatfish such as sole and plaice. The aquaculture segment is exclusively for managing, developing and servicing fish farming areas and can collect spat from wild mussel stocks.

The top 20 species landed by value in 2019 were mackerel (78 million euro); Dublin Bay prawn (59 million euro); horse mackerel (17 million euro); monkfish (17 million euro); brown crab (16 million euro); hake (11 million euro); blue whiting (10 million euro); megrim (10 million euro); haddock (9 million euro); tuna (7 million euro); scallop (6 million euro); whelk (5 million euro); whiting (4 million euro); sprat (3 million euro); herring (3 million euro); lobster (2 million euro); turbot (2 million euro); cod (2 million euro); boarfish (2 million euro).

Ireland has approximately 220 million acres of marine territory, rich in marine biodiversity. A marine biodiversity scheme under Ireland's operational programme, which is co-funded by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund and the Government, aims to reduce the impact of fisheries and aquaculture on the marine environment, including avoidance and reduction of unwanted catch.

EU fisheries ministers hold an annual pre-Christmas council in Brussels to decide on total allowable catches and quotas for the following year. This is based on advice from scientific bodies such as the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea. In Ireland's case, the State's Marine Institute publishes an annual "stock book" which provides the most up to date stock status and scientific advice on over 60 fish stocks exploited by the Irish fleet. Total allowable catches are supplemented by various technical measures to control effort, such as the size of net mesh for various species.

The west Cork harbour of Castletownbere is Ireland's biggest whitefish port. Killybegs, Co Donegal is the most important port for pelagic (herring, mackerel, blue whiting) landings. Fish are also landed into Dingle, Co Kerry, Rossaveal, Co Galway, Howth, Co Dublin and Dunmore East, Co Waterford, Union Hall, Co Cork, Greencastle, Co Donegal, and Clogherhead, Co Louth. The busiest Northern Irish ports are Portavogie, Ardglass and Kilkeel, Co Down.

Yes, EU quotas are allocated to other fleets within the Irish EEZ, and Ireland has long been a transhipment point for fish caught by the Spanish whitefish fleet in particular. Dingle, Co Kerry has seen an increase in foreign landings, as has Castletownbere. The west Cork port recorded foreign landings of 36 million euro or 48 per cent in 2019, and has long been nicknamed the "peseta" port, due to the presence of Spanish-owned transhipment plant, Eiranova, on Dinish island.

Most fish and shellfish caught or cultivated in Irish waters is for the export market, and this was hit hard from the early stages of this year's Covid-19 pandemic. The EU, Asia and Britain are the main export markets, while the middle Eastern market is also developing and the African market has seen a fall in value and volume, according to figures for 2019 issued by BIM.

Fish was once a penitential food, eaten for religious reasons every Friday. BIM has worked hard over several decades to develop its appeal. Ireland is not like Spain – our land is too good to transform us into a nation of fish eaters, but the obvious health benefits are seeing a growth in demand. Seafood retail sales rose by one per cent in 2019 to 300 million euro. Salmon and cod remain the most popular species, while BIM reports an increase in sales of haddock, trout and the pangasius or freshwater catfish which is cultivated primarily in Vietnam and Cambodia and imported by supermarkets here.

The EU's Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), initiated in 1983, pooled marine resources – with Ireland having some of the richest grounds and one of the largest sea areas at the time, but only receiving four per cent of allocated catch by a quota system. A system known as the "Hague Preferences" did recognise the need to safeguard the particular needs of regions where local populations are especially dependent on fisheries and related activities. The State's Sea Fisheries Protection Authority, based in Clonakilty, Co Cork, works with the Naval Service on administering the EU CFP. The Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine and Department of Transport regulate licensing and training requirements, while the Marine Survey Office is responsible for the implementation of all national and international legislation in relation to safety of shipping and the prevention of pollution.

Yes, a range of certificates of competency are required for skippers and crew. Training is the remit of BIM, which runs two national fisheries colleges at Greencastle, Co Donegal and Castletownbere, Co Cork. There have been calls for the colleges to be incorporated into the third-level structure of education, with qualifications recognised as such.

Safety is always an issue, in spite of technological improvements, as fishing is a hazardous occupation and climate change is having its impact on the severity of storms at sea. Fishing skippers and crews are required to hold a number of certificates of competency, including safety and navigation, and wearing of personal flotation devices is a legal requirement. Accidents come under the remit of the Marine Casualty Investigation Board, and the Health and Safety Authority. The MCIB does not find fault or blame, but will make recommendations to the Minister for Transport to avoid a recurrence of incidents.

Fish are part of a marine ecosystem and an integral part of the marine food web. Changing climate is having a negative impact on the health of the oceans, and there have been more frequent reports of warmer water species being caught further and further north in Irish waters.

Brexit, Covid 19, EU policies and safety – Britain is a key market for Irish seafood, and 38 per cent of the Irish catch is taken from the waters around its coast. Ireland's top two species – mackerel and prawns - are 60 per cent and 40 per cent, respectively, dependent on British waters. Also, there are serious fears within the Irish industry about the impact of EU vessels, should they be expelled from British waters, opting to focus even more efforts on Ireland's rich marine resource. Covid-19 has forced closure of international seafood markets, with high value fish sold to restaurants taking a large hit. A temporary tie-up support scheme for whitefish vessels introduced for the summer of 2020 was condemned by industry organisations as "designed to fail".

Sources: Bord Iascaigh Mhara, Marine Institute, Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine, Department of Transport © Afloat 2020

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