Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

Displaying items by tag: Marine Protected Areas

A coalition of Ireland’s leading environmental NGOs and networks says time is running out to protect Ireland’s marine environment.

With fewer than 20 Dáil sitting days left this year, Fair Seas says it is calling on the Government to enact the Marine Protected Areas (MPA) Bill without delay.

Fair Seas wants to see binding targets committing to effectively 30% of the seas around Ireland by 2030, with 10% strictly protected.

Dr Donal Griffin, marine policy officer with Fair Seas, was one of the speakers at a Green Foundation Ireland seminar about Ocean Warming and Marine Biodiversity at the National Maritime Museum of Ireland in Dun Laoghaire last week.

The event highlighted how climate change is affecting earth’s oceans, with marine warming in the North Atlantic increasing by five degrees this year, according to UK-based scientists.

This has put at risk the survival of kelp forests and other important habitats and species, which play a crucial role as a home for marine biodiversity around Ireland, Great Britain and Europe’s Atlantic coast.

Dr Griffin said: “Ireland’s marine area is enormous. However, its stewardship by successive Governments has failed to deliver its full ecological, economic or social potential.

“At the end of the day, healthy seas help tackle the biodiversity and climate crisis. Healthy seas are better able to mitigate the impact of climate change at global scale by regulating the climate, sequestering carbon and absorbing atmospheric heat. Healthy seas are able to withstand and quickly recover from extreme events. They are also better positioned to help coastal communities adapt to the social and economic changes brought about by climate change.”

Dr Griffin added: “The MPA Bill was promised before the summer recess. We’re now quickly approaching the Christmas break… This legislation needs to be robust, fit-for-purpose and it’s essential we get it right.

“We want to see stakeholder engagement at every stage, clear delivery timeframes and a robust management framework, with targeted, site-specific measures to ensure MPAs deliver for nature.”

Other speakers at the event included former Green Party MEP Grace O’Sullivan; Karin Dubsky, director of Coastwatch; and Dr Saule Akhmetkaliyeva from the Blue Carbon Research Lab at UCD.

Published in Environment

Ireland has reaffirmed a pledge to protect 30 per cent of Ireland’s marine areas by 2030.

Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien reaffirmed the original commitment made by Minister of State for Heritage Malcolm Noonan at a seminar involving the European Commission in Malahide, Dublin.

In a new “Message from Malahide”, O’Brien told delegates from nine member states attending a European Commission seminar in Dublin about “Ireland’s significant progress in meeting the targets to protect marine areas as outlined in the EU Biodiversity Strategy 2030”.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) is hosting the three-day seminar in Malahide, Co. Dublin, together with the European Commission.

Minister for Housing and Local Government Darragh O’BrienMinister for Housing and Local Government Darragh O’Brien

The event is one of a series and brings member states together to assess progress on the EU Biodiversity Strategy, an ambitious, long term plan for protecting nature and reversing the degradation of ecosystems.

The strategy contains specific actions and commitments, including targets for a larger EU–wide network of protected areas on land and sea.

This includes legal protection of at least 30% of EU terrestrial and marine areas by 2030.

The European Commission has requested member states to supply voluntary pledges indicating their contribution to the Biodiversity Strategy 2030 protected area targets.

“We have signalled our intention to meet these targets by increasing the marine area in our Natura Network from just over 2% of our waters two years ago, to almost 10% today,” O’Brien said.

“ New legislation, the Marine Protected Areas Bill is also in progress which will legally underpin the designation of Marine Protected Areas. These actions, along with my department’s pledge here today, demonstrate real commitment to protecting our marine biodiversity,” he said.

A number of national and European NGOs are attending the seminar.

Speakers include Andrea Vettori, Head of the Nature Conservation Unit at the EU’s DG Environment, EU Commission, scientific experts, and government officials from across Europe who outlined their own country pledges and approaches to meeting targets.

The Biogeographical seminar for the Atlantic and the Macaronesian marine biogeographical regions takes place from October 11th until 13th.

The seminar is hosted jointly by the European Commission’s DG Environment and NPWS.

Published in Marine Planning
Tagged under

The Northern Ireland Inheritance Film Festival is set to feature the online premiere of 'Fair Seas: The Atlantic Northwest', a short film that showcases the perspectives of coastal communities from Donegal and Sligo who rely on the sea for their livelihood. Fair Seas produced the 14-minute documentary, which offers insights into the hopes, fears, and stories of local seafood producers, an angler, a diving instructor, and a walking guide throughout the North Donegal to Sligo region. The film highlights how the creation of Marine Protected Areas could provide a fresh approach to maritime life conservation that has supported these communities for generations.

The maritime region of Northwest is home to over 25 species of whales and dolphins, 38 species of seabirds, and a variety of rare and endangered species of sharks, skates, and rays. The adverse impact of climate change, pollution, a loss of biodiversity, and reduced fish stocks throughout the region are worth mentioning.

Peter McAuley filming with the Swimming Head Productions teamPeter McAuley filming with the Swimming Head Productions team

Fair Seas is campaigning for strong and ambitious Marine Protected Areas (MPA) legislation to be published as soon as possible to protect this vital resource and the coastal communities of Donegal and Sligo that rely on it. The group wants to see mandatory targets committing to effectively protecting 30% of the seas around Ireland by 2030 with 10% strictly protected. Fair Seas is calling for stakeholder engagement at every stage of the MPA designation with clear delivery timeframes as well as a robust management framework which clearly defines the varying degrees of site protection to ensure MPAs deliver for nature.

Aoife O’Mahony, Campaign Manager with Fair Seas said, “The Northwest coastline is breathtaking and our latest film explores some of the wildlife and biodiversity hidden beneath the waves. It is really important for us to hear the views of the people who make a living from the sea and to hear their concerns about the health of the ocean. There is also plenty of reason for hope and we all can act to make a difference. Donegal is famous for the large number of basking sharks that can be seen in its waters. This gentle giant was hunted nearly to extinction, now it is a protected species in Irish waters and making a comeback thanks to widespread public support.”

“Time is running out for Ireland to meet its targets to protect 30% of our seas and ocean by 2030. The Marine Protected Area Bill was promised in June 2023 and we are still waiting to see this crucial legislation. We’re asking the voters of Ireland’s Atlantic Northwest and across the country to add their voice to the calls to safeguard our seas, tell your elected representatives you want strong and ambitious marine protected area legislation. We must all act with ambition and urgency so that the full benefits of nature restored can reveal themselves in generations to come.”

Inheritance is an environmental festival which takes place three times a year. It aims to educate, inspire and raise awareness of contemporary environmental issues, and to showcase the work of independent filmmakers from all over the globe. The festival is live-streamed on the Inheritance website and screened on regional TV channels including Latest TV in Brighton, Northern Visions in Belfast, Sheffield Live! in Sheffield and KMTV in Kent.

The Fair Seas film will be shown on Belfast’s NVTV on Sunday, September 23rd from 9pm. The channel is available on Freeview 7 and Virgin Media 159, in Belfast, and Fair Seas film will be shown on Belfast’s NVTV on Sunday, September 23rd from 9pm. The channel is available on Freeview 7 and Virgin Media 159, in Belfast, and

‘Fair Seas: The Atlantic Northwest’ was part funded by the Networking and Marine Research Communications Awards, funded by the Marine Institute under the Marine Research Programme with the support of the Irish Government.

It was produced by Swimming Head Productions, an award-winning team specialising in quick-fire documentaries with a focus on heritage, science and the natural world.

Fair Seas has also produced a new postcard for Ireland’s Northwest Coast which features a basking shark swimming over a bed of seagrass. This postcard will be shared with ocean conservation organisations in this local area to highlight the beauty of this area of Ireland’s Coast.

Published in Maritime TV

Environmental groups have expressed dismay at the delay of the Marine Protected Areas Bill, as the Irish Examiner reports.

The eagerly awaited legislation will now not be published until after the Dáil recess — which has prompted the Fair Seas coalition to call for it to be made a priority when TDs return to Leinster House in mid September.

Fair Seas marine policy officer Donal Griffin said: “Time is running out for Ireland to meet its targets to protect 30% of our seas and ocean by 2030.”

The bill is sure to be a hot topic at a public event this Friday evening 4 August at the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group’s Shannon Dolphin Centre in Kilrush, Co Clare to celebrate the South West Coast’s marine wildlife.

The Irish Examiner has more on the story HERE.

Published in Marine Planning
Tagged under

The campaign group Fair Seas is hosting a free event focusing on marine protected areas (MPAs) in Co Clare next week (August 4th).

The evening of talk and discussions, entitled “Hope for the Greater Skellig Coast and Ireland’s Marine Protected Areas”, will be held in Kilrush, Co Clare, on August 4th.

Fair Seas has been pressing the government to publish the promised legislation on MPAs. The campaign named an expanse of water from Loop Head in Co Clare to Kenmare in Co Kerry as Ireland’s first “hope spot” at the start of this year.

“Although small at only 1.37% of our overall marine area, these waters support huge biodiversity including the highest densities of minke and humpback whales recorded in the Irish Exclusive Economic Zone,” Irish Whale and Dolphin Group education and outreach officer Sibeál Regan says.

“Effectively protecting this upwelling area teeming with life is critical to ensuring a healthy sea,” she says, describing Kerry and Clare’s marine life as “truly spectacular”.

Regan will talk at the Kilrush event about whales, dolphins and porpoises off the west coast and about the Fair Seas campaign to protect, conserve and restore Ireland’s unique marine environment.

Fair Seas estimates that €55 million will be needed to adequately fund MPA designation and ongoing management until 2030. It has published a report which estimates that approximately €7 million would be required over the next 12 months to reach the target of fully protecting 10% of Ireland’s ocean and seas.

Fair Seas is also inviting people to complete an online survey, answering questions about the health of Ireland’s marine environment, how they use the seas and what actions they believe the Irish government needs to be taking to manage this environment.

The ocean literacy survey will remain open until the end of the summer, it says, and information collected will “be held securely and treated in the strictest confidence”.

Fair Seas says the survey will take approximately 15 minutes to complete, and consent can be withdrawn at any time.

The talk and panel discussion at the Shannon Dolphin Centre, Merchant’s Quay, Kilrush, Co Clare, runs from 6 pm to 8 pm on Friday, August 4th.

Published in Marine Planning
Tagged under

Birdwatch Ireland has welcomed a decision to extend marine protection for a North Atlantic sea area outside of Ireland’s exclusive economic zone.

The seafloor of the North Atlantic Current and Evlanov Sea Basin (NACES) has been given marine protected area (MPA) designation by 15 governments, including Ireland, which are signatories to the OSPAR convention.

The 600,000 km2 area is east of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and north of the Azores.

“The NACES MPA is a vital wintering ground for the globally threatened Atlantic puffin, a species in rapid decline and one which also breeds in Ireland during the summer and is much loved,” Birdwatch Ireland marine policy and advocacy officer Sinead Loughran said.

She described the decision is “an incredibly important first step to ensure that this biodiversity hotspot in the North Atlantic high seas” can continue to support an “ abundance and diversity of marine life”.

The sea basin which is the size of continental France, was designated in 2021, after research by BirdLife International showed that five million seabirds, including puffins breeding on Skellig Michael, use it every year.

The extension to protect the seafloor was agreed by OSPAR signatories in Oslo, Norway, last week.

This is due to the location’s significance for a “multitude” of marine species and the value of its seabed habitats.

Evidence gathered over the last two years also shows the NACES MPA is key marine habitat for blue and fin whales, leatherback and loggerhead turtles, basking sharks, European eels and Atlantic bluefin tuna.

The MPA’s seafloor habitat includes over 30 seamounts, with vulnerable marine ecosystems, such as deep-sea sponges and coral gardens, serving as “crucial pillars for supporting a wide array of vibrant ecosystems”.

Over 16,400 people had supported a petition by BirdWatch Ireland and BirdLife International for better protection of the site.

The organisations say it is now “essential that OSPAR develops a management plan for the site”.

The 1992 OSPAR Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic involves Ireland, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Britain, along with the EU.

Published in Marine Planning

An ecological analysis of the western Irish Sea for potential marine protected areas warns of “significant spatial squeeze” if both offshore wind farms and commercial fishing are excluded from sensitive habitats.

As The Sunday Independent reports, a report for the Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien has recommended a list of 40 sensitive species and habitats in a sea area which has been targeted for extensive offshore windfarm development.

The study was led by Prof Tasman Crowe, director of University College, Dublin’s Earth Institute, and aims to inform new legislation on marine protected areas (MPAs).

It focuses on the sea area extending from Carlingford Lough to Carnsore Point, where a number of offshore wind farms will be built.

The Government has committed to designating 30 per cent of Ireland’s seas as marine protected areas (MPAs) by 2030 in line with EU commitments, and a Bill is currently before the Oireachtas.

The new report acknowledges the challenges of overlapping competing interests, given that the western Irish Sea is a busy shipping area and a key area for commercial fishing, among other activities.

Angel shark, basking shark, tope, American plaice and the European eel are among the 40 species and habitats identified for MPA designation.

Among the 40 listed, 18 of the features or species are already on protected lists.

For instance, the European eel and angel shark are “red-listed” or critically endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

Carbon-rich muddy habitats are included, as they can capture carbon to mitigate global warming.

The barrel jellyfish Photo: Mark ThomasThe barrel jellyfish Photo: Mark Thomas

The barrel jellyfish is among the species listed, as it provides food for species of commercial or conservation importance.

Native or European flat oysters which were fished to extinction in the Irish Sea are listed as being “suitable for restoration”.

The report says the Irish Sea has a “long history of exploitation ” and is “far from pristine”, but says there are over 1,700 species and it is a “biocultural hotspot”.

Read more in The Sunday Independent here

Published in Marine Planning
Tagged under

The country’s major fishing organisations have called on the Oireachtas Committee dealing with the development of Marine Protected Areas to listen to them as it has to environmental organisations.

The country’s major fishing representative organisations have claimed that the Committee’s review process of the Marine Protected Areas Bill is “flawed” because it invited and heard submissions from environment groups but did not invite the fishing industry.

The Irish South and East Fish Producers, the Irish Fish Processors and Exporters Organisation, the Irish Fish Producers’ Organisation, the Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation, the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation and the Aquaculture Committee of the Irish Farmers’ Association have lodged their “strongest objection at the failure to include us in consultation.”

The Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Local Government and Heritage is dealing with the MPAs Bill because it has been given Government responsibility for them and the Maritime Regulatory Authority (MARA).

TDs and Senators are members and met with environmental organisations - Fair Seas, BirdWatch Ireland, Irish Wildlife Trust, and Irish Whale and Dolphin Group.

The fishing organisations say they “wish to work constructively with the Committee but need to be afforded equality and respect to represent the views of their sector.”

They have sent a six-page document to the Committee, outlining their views on the MPAs Bill “on the basis we will be called before to give evidence in the same manner which was afforded to all other interested parties.”

“First and foremost, the first and aquaculture industries are not opposed to MPAs,” the document says. “We recognise and understand the need for and the value of MPAs both in the wider environmental and conservation context and in the specific value they can add to existing fisheries and food security by improving sustainability, if implemented effectively and based on scientific evidence. However, there is a need to acknowledge that Ireland’s marine area is also part of a food production system, and fisheries and aquaculture provide a vital source of protein. Balance is needed to ensure food security, economic activities, sustainable and resilient fisheries, protection of diversity, and support the fight against climate change.”

Published in Marine Planning

An Oireachtas committee has said that greater consultation with the fishing industry must be “facilitated” to provide better planning around marine protected areas (MPAs) and offshore wind farms.

In a report on biodiversity loss, the Joint Committee on Environment and Climate Action says that the expansion of the marine renewables industry in Ireland “must be led in a climate-friendly manner”.

It says “the provision of best practice guidelines supported by legislation would ensure robust and consistent site assessments and risk analyses” in relation to offshore wind development.

It also notes that the lack of cohesive approach to data gathering and monitoring of the marine environment is conflicting with the increased level of interest from wind farm companies.

The points were raised in its report, published on Thursday, highlighting the poor state of biodiversity on a global level, along with issues that are specific to Ireland.

The report’s five key themes include loss of biodiversity in marine environments and future potential for these areas; biodiversity and climate; how degradation of biodiversity occurred in Ireland; agriculture and land use; and how to change the downward trend through monitoring and research, and policy and legislative change.

Committee chair Brian Leddin said the report sets out 75 recommendations which include a call to review the Arterial Drainage Act, and recommendations around the need for prioritising the designation of MPAs.

The recommendations also refer to the “immediate development and implementation of management plans for existing and future designated MPAs to restore biodiversity and prevent further damage”, he said.

The committee took submissions and held consultations with stakeholders last year. Irish Whale and Dolphin Group co-ordinator Dr Simon Berrow said that “currently the fishing industry is fearful of the future with MPAs and offshore wind farms”, due to lack of consultation.

The report says the committee “agreed that greater consultation with the fishing industry must be facilitated in order to provide better planning around MPAs and wind farms”.

The report says the committee also noted the “lack of inclusion of MPAs in the heads of the Maritime Area Planning Bill 2021, and acknowledged stakeholder concerns that the designation of MPAs is currently not on any legislative footing”.

“Stakeholders highlighted that the lack of legislation around MPAs is currently the biggest issue and that the designation of MPAs along with “sensitivity mapping” is essential to ensure that the development of offshore renewable energy is steered away from more sensitive areas of the marine environment”, it said.

“The marine renewable energy industry in Ireland is expanding rapidly, and Dr Berrow highlighted that while coastal areas provide great opportunity for renewable energy, appropriate planning is needed “to mitigate negative impacts on marine species and habitats” and that this could also be an opportunity to restore and enhance biodiversity,” it said.

“The committee agreed that biodiversity should lead future planning and projects, and that projects should be carefully assessed to best avoid any negative environmental impacts such as what occurred following the incorrect placement of wind farms on peatlands in Donegal,”it says

The committee’s report also highlights the lack of cohesive approach to data gathering and monitoring of the marine environment, which is “conflicting with the increased level of interest from wind farm companies”.

“Dr Berrow stated that a strategy that can achieve objectives that would be in the interest of everyone, including the marine environment, would be worth considering and highlighted the illogical nature of the current system used for surveying sites for wind farms,” it says

“One company will go out one day and on the following day, the same team of observers on the same vessel will go and survey the site next door to it. There is significant duplication of effort and significant increase in disturbance,” Dr Berrow told the committee.

“I appreciate that there is commercial competition, so they need all their own data. Where does the State obligation begin and end and where does that of the private companies begin and end? We suggest that if there were some data sets that were common to all and could be shared, one would not need to go and do it again,” he said

The report says the committee agreed that “while the marine renewables sector is an essential aspect of Ireland’s climate measures and future emissions targets, it is important that the correct approach be taken with construction to ensure the least negative impact for marine environments”.

The report is available here

Published in Marine Planning

A new cross-border environmental network has been formed to press for action on marine protected areas (MPAs) in the Irish Sea.

The new network involves Ireland’s Sustainable Water Network (SWAN), the Manx Wildlife Trust, the North Wales Wildlife Trust, the North West Wildlife Trusts, the Scottish Wildlife Trust, the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales, and Ulster Wildlife.

The group describes the Irish Sea Network as “an innovative partnership comprising conservation organisations surrounding the sea that have come together to improve our collective impact for nature”.

Funding has been provided by Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and the John Ellerman Foundation.

“Collaboration across national borders is essential to achieve a well-managed and ecologically coherent network of MPAs and truly sustainable fisheries across the Irish Sea,” it says.

Saltmarshes on Walney Island in Cumbria Photo: Emily BaxterSaltmarshes on Walney Island in Cumbria Photo: Emily Baxter

“The Irish Sea is under significant and increasing pressure from climate change and activities like fishing, aquaculture, development, shipping, aggregates, military activity, recreational activity and pollution,” it says.

“While more than 15 million people live around the Irish Sea and many more visit for holidays, only a small percentage of them realise what wildlife lives there and just how important it is for biodiversity and the environment,” it says.

While 36% of the Irish Sea is designated as a MPA by all the nations of the Irish Sea, only 5% has any management in place, and less than 0.01% is fully protected,” it says.

Thornback Ray Photo: Paul NaylorThornback Ray Photo: Paul Naylor

It says Ireland contributes only about 1.4% of the 36% designation.

The Irish Sea Network says it has produced a review of the Irish Sea, and has laid out a vision and issued “calls to action to protect and maintain the health of the waterway.

It says it has a vision for “a healthy and resilient Irish Sea, enabled by collaborative, cross-national action; where marine wildlife and blue carbon habitats thrive, supporting multiple environmental, social and economic benefits”.

Honeycomb worm reef Photo: Cumbria Wildlife TrustHoneycomb worm reef Photo: Cumbria Wildlife Trust

It believes that “strategic and effective marine planning that takes an ecosystem-based approach with cross-national collaboration, would help to reduce the impact upon sensitive wildlife habitats and carbon stores”.

SWAN policy officer Ellen MacMahon said her group is “delighted to be part of this new collaboration”.

“Wildlife does not adhere to lines drawn on maps, so we need to think at an Irish Sea scale. Whilst there are some protection measures in place, management is weak,” she said.

“Millions of people around the Irish Sea rely on it for food, employment and wellbeing, but many overlook its role in fighting against climate change and its importance for wildlife – few know about the incredibly diverse habitats that support a huge amount of amazing wildlife– giant basking sharks, leatherback turtles, beautiful starfish and jellyfish, dolphins, porpoises, seal and sharks, as well as internationally important seabirds like Manx shearwater and guillemots,” she said.

A basking shark (Ceterhinus maximus) feeds at the surface on plankton. Photographed in June 200 at the Cairns Of Coll, Isle of Coll, the Inner Hebrides, Scotland in the North East Atlantic Ocean Photo: Alex MustardA basking shark (Ceterhinus maximus) feeds at the surface on plankton. Photographed in June 200 at the Cairns Of Coll, Isle of Coll, the Inner Hebrides, Scotland in the North East Atlantic Ocean Photo: Alex Mustard

“Without protection and proper management, much of this wildlife faces an uncertain future. We must ensure that damaging activities like dredging, development and unsustainable fishing methods are managed to ensure that vitally important areas for the environment are protected and we give space for nature’s recovery,” she said.

SWAN co-ordinator Sinéad O’Brien said it is” clear that pressures in the Irish Sea are increasing”.

“We are about to see a huge expansion of offshore renewable energy projects, but if we want to tackle the twin climate and biodiversity emergencies, we need robust marine planning which ensures space for nature through a network of effective marine protected areas covering a minimum of 30% of Ireland’s waters,” she said.

Sandeels Photo: Paul NaylorSandeels Photo: Paul Naylor

SWAN) is an umbrella network of 25 national and local environmental groups working together for the protection and sustainable management of Ireland’s water environment.

SWAN members are: An Taisce, Bat Conservation Ireland, BirdWatch Ireland, Carra/Mask/Corrib Water Protection Group, Cavan Leitrim Environmental Awareness Network, Celebrate Water, Coastal Concern Alliance (Associate), Coastwatch, Coomhola Salmon Trust, Cork Environmental Forum, Cork Nature Network, Dodder Action, ECO-UNESCO, Friends of the Earth, Friends of the Irish Environment, Irish Peatland Conservation Council, Irish Seal Sanctuary, Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, Irish Wildlife Trust, Longford Environmental Alliance, Macroom District Environmental Group, River Shannon Protection Alliance, Save the Swilly, Slaney River Trust, Voice of Irish Concern for the Environment (VOICE).

Published in Marine Planning
Tagged under
Page 1 of 3