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Displaying items by tag: marine environment

The Maritime Area Regulatory Authority (MARA) has initiated a study with the Marine Institute on whether certain marine environmental surveys require a licence.

The study will focus on marine environmental surveys “for the purposes of scientific discovery and research”, and marine environmental surveys “for the purposes of site investigation or in support of an application for planning for major developments”.

The new State regulatory authority for marine planning, says that “the output of this study, expected Q1 2024, will inform MARA if changes in the licence regime are warranted”.

“If so, MARA will engage with the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage to prioritise drafting legislative amendments to exempt some ‘low risk’ activities that are marine licensable,” it says.

The Marine Institute said it “is engaging with internal and external marine experts to help identify and propose activities that may be suitable for exemption”.

“This will be carried out by assessing marine data collection processes, publicly available data and survey techniques used in other mature markets”, it says.

“A comprehensive catalogue of the types of activities will be reviewed. The approaches adopted in other jurisdictions will also inform the process,” it says.

MARA chief executive officer Laura Brien said “the range of activities which require a marine licence is wide ranging from large complex works to smaller, low-risk works”.

“This is an important project which could result in an innovative approach to our licensing regime and ensure applications are treated in a proportionate way,” she said.

“The outcome of this work will be of interest to a number of our stakeholders, including industry, in particular those dealing with Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) and other maritime developments,” she said.

More information is available from Mara’s marine licensing team at email address [email protected]

Published in Marine Planning

A European Court of Auditors report on offshore renewable energy says targets set by the EU in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine may be difficult to reach, and the impact on the marine environment hasn’t been sufficiently “identified, analysed or addressed”.

As The Sunday Independent reports, the auditors’ report also expresses “particular” concern about “the unresolved conflict with fisheries in some countries”.

Four EU member states were analysed for the report, but the report’s recommendations apply to all member states, including Ireland.

The report studied progress in Germany and The Netherlands (both of whom have advanced offshore sectors), plus those of France and Spain.

EU member state targets may be delayed by planning and the effect of inflation, it says, but it says this pace may accelerate under changes to the renewable energy directive, requiring member states to designate “renewable go-to areas” on land or at sea for “overriding public interest”.

However, the audit report says the European Commission did not assess the environmental impact and impact on the fishing industry of these increased targets.

Installations of energy infrastructure at sea “may result in a progressive reduction of access to fishing areas, which could lower revenue from fishing and increase competition between fishermen,” it says.

While this may benefit some fish stocks, it claims “an improved fish population on a larger scale is uncertain”.

The report also says the scale of the planned offshore renewable energy roll-out, from a current 16GW of installed capacity to a planned 61GW in 2030 “and beyond”, may result in a “significant” environmental footprint on marine life, which “has not been taken sufficiently into account”.

The EU has argued this will require less than 3pc of the European maritime area and is “compatible with the EU’s biodiversity strategy” — but the report says deploying offshore renewable energy “might influence a much larger proportion of certain habitat types and their biodiversity”.

The Department of Environment, Climate and Communications says it is scrutinising the report, and said it underlined the importance of “plan-led” approach by Ireland to phase two projects.

The first designated maritime area plan for future offshore energy development for the south coast is out for public consultation.

Read The Sunday Independent here

Published in Fishing

Two renewable energy industry associations and several environmental NGOs have called for a “step-change in Government investment in environmental capacity” at both state and civil society level to address the biodiversity and climate crises.

A joint pre-Budget statement from Wind Energy Ireland and the Irish Solar Energy Association, along with environmental NGOs, calls for a range of targeted measures to support an environmentally sound transition to a zero-carbon power system.

The NGOs are An Taisce, Birdwatch Ireland, Friends of the Earth, the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, and the Irish Wildlife Trust.

“lack of environmental capacity in state agencies”

“Substantially increased resources are needed at all levels of Government and in environmental NGOs to accelerate the energy transition while protecting nature,” they say.

They criticise a “lack of environmental capacity in state agencies”, which they claim to be undermining renewables objectives and compliance with environmental law.

A lack of resources among NGOs means they are often prevented from substantially engaging in the planning and development process, they state.

The joint statement calls for, among other actions:

*An increase in funding for relevant departments and agencies and a fast-track recruitment process for key state bodies that are critical for delivering a zero-carbon electricity system and protecting and restoring nature, to ensure that they have enough ecologists, for example, to progress their work in a timely fashion.

*The establishment of a dedicated Climate and Nature Restoration Fund from windfall corporation taxes to finance climate and nature infrastructural and capital investments, including nature-based solutions.

*The introduction of a dedicated new funding stream to support training and upskilling of existing staff in public bodies involved in carrying out an environmental impact assessment.

*The allocation of at least €7 million in 2024 to help reach the target of fully protecting 10% of Ireland’s ocean and seas and at least €55 million to support longer-term designation of Marine Protected Areas and ongoing management until 2030.

*The establishment of a new funding stream for science and research-focused conservation organisations to enable them to fund staff posts so that they can meaningfully engage in ecological research, active conservation, infrastructure consultation and planning processes.

*An increase in annual funding to the Irish Environmental Network by €1 million to improve the ability of environmental NGOs to engage in environmental planning and policy.

Published in Marine Wildlife
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“Nature-based” solutions to the impact of climate breakdown on the marine and terrestrial environments could qualify for funding from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as part of a new research call.

The EPA says up to €16 million in funding is available for new research projects, representing a significant increase over previous years.

It is inviting proposals from the research community for “innovative research projects to support the development and implementation of environmental policies in Ireland”.

“Scientific research and innovation are playing an increasingly important role in informing how governments and society can respond to the challenges posed by climate change and environmental degradation,” Dr Eimear Cotter, Director of the EPA’s Office of Evidence and Assessment says.

Areas of research include exploring how nature-based solutions can benefit the environment and society, advancing climate science in an Irish context, and identifying effective options to adapt to climate change.

Cross-cutting areas are also highlighted, such as how data and digitalisation can be utilised for environmental protection and how society can be enabled in its transition to a sustainable future, the EPA says.

The EPA research programme is funded by the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications.

Under this year’s call, the EPA says it will be partnering with the Geological Survey Ireland, National Parks and Wildlife Service and Met Éireann to co-fund projects in areas of mutual interest.

Further details are available on the EPA website and queries can be emailed to [email protected]

Published in Marine Science
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Ireland is to develop nature-based solutions in coastal areas to protect biodiversity, improve resilience to climate change and reduce the impact of pollution under a new programme of measures for the marine environment

Ireland’s plan to maintain or achieve “good environmental status” of marine waters over the next six years has been published by Government.

The “programme of actions” commits Ireland to:

  • develop and expand Ireland’s marine protected areas (MPAs) to cover 30% of its marine area by 2030, including enacting the Marine Protected Areas Bill in 2023;
  • develop nature-based solutions in coastal and marine systems to protect biodiversity, improve resilience to climate change and reduce the impact of pollution;
  • provide environmental guidance for offshore renewable energy;
  • develop an all-Ireland management strategy for non-indigenous species and invasive species in coastal and marine areas;
  • update guidance on reducing underwater noise pollution to protect marine mammals;
  • and fully implement the Single Use Plastics Directive and Circular Economy Act, among a wide range of other actions aimed at reducing litter and plastics in our seas. This will allow Ireland to reach the EU beach litter threshold value of 20 litter items per 100m.

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

The “Programme of Measures” incorporating Ireland’s environmental targets for seas and oceans to 2028 has already been submitted to the European Commission.

 It has now been published by Minister for Housing and Local Government Darragh O’Brien and Minister of State for Heritage Malcolm Noonan.

The programme was drawn up by a steering committee of State bodies, and several non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

Fishing industry organisations, port bodies and representatives of marine leisure are not part of the steering committee.

The members of the steering committee include: Department of Housing Planning and Local Government, Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Sea Fisheries Protection Authority, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Transport, Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications, Inland Fisheries Ireland, Food Safety Authority of Ireland, environmental NGO representatives Coastwatch and SWAN, Bord Iascaigh Mhara and the National Biodiversity Data Centre.

Published in Marine Planning
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European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly is seeking the public’s view on how transparent EU decision-making is in relation to the environment.

The public consultation, which closes in just over a month’s time, relates to decisions involving both the marine and terrestrial environment.

The consultation’s aim is to evaluate whether citizens have access to the up-to-date information they need to exercise “democratic scrutiny” when it comes to EU rules for protecting the environment and combatting climate change.

“Past Ombudsman inquiries have found instances in which environmental information was made public either too late or not at all, effectively removing people’s right to participate in decision-making related to the environment,”the European Ombudsman’s office says.

“The Ombudsman has decided to prioritise scrutiny of this area as the EU - in the face of unprecedented environmental challenges - has agreed a series of laws aimed at protecting the environment and combatting climate change,” it says.

“The laws and proposals range from binding emission targets, to funding programmes for sustainable technologies, to biodiversity strategies and reduction in the use of chemical pesticides,”it says.

The EU Aarhus regulation obliges EU institutions to set up public databases for “ proactive and systemic” dissemination of certain environmental information.

As one of a series of questions drawn up as part of the consultation, participants are asked to identify what EU institutions should do to make these databases as comprehensive and user-friendly as possible?

The 11 questions relating to transparency and participation seek to “find out how easy it is for the public to obtain documents or information related to the environment”.

They are also designed to determine “how citizens could be more involved in the preparation and implementation of green policies”.

The public consultation is available in all 24 EU languages, and runs until December 15th. More details are here

Published in Marine Wildlife
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Northern Ireland’s first boat-based environmental charity, Citizen Sea, will be presenting several events about the marine environment in Northern Ireland in Belfast from the 24th of February-10th March.

Citizen Sea is a grassroots charity, empowering people to engage with and learn about their local marine environment, using science and experiences to help protect our seas.

Citizen Sea’s vessel has its home in Bangor Marina. It aims is to inspire people through experiences at sea to love, protect and appreciate the marine environment and they engage with people through citizen science, practical action, and education.

On 24th February Marine Biologist Amy Mundye will present Talk and Print at the Belfast Print Workshop in Cotton Court in the city’s Cathedral Quarter. It will feature her published research on microplastics, and hermit crabs and artist Linda Barbour will present a screen printing taster session.

Marine Biologist Amy MundyeMarine Biologist Amy Mundye

The event titled the Power of the Sea on 27 February in the Belfast Barge at Lanyon Quay will include contributions from three people whose lives are intrinsically linked to the sea. There will be a talk by Bangor legend Brian Meharg MBE, about his life on the water and with Bangor RNLI. He’s well known as the Bangor Boat Man and has been part of the boating community in North Down for many years. Brian will be telling some amazing stories from his time with the lifeboat, and life on the open seas. Jessica McWilliams will share what the sea means to her personally and why she's hooked on sea swimming! Aileen McClenaghan, who has been employed by a mental health charity for the past 18 years and is currently tutoring Environment and Art classes to adults with learning disabilities, often uses her spare-time at the coast beachcombing and litter-picking. Aileen will be talking about some of her frequent and more unusual finds and how important it is for us all to connect with the sea. This series of events will raise some much-needed funds for activities such as science clubs and training for volunteers, as well as awareness around the marine environment and plastic pollution.

Photographer Phil WilkinsonPhotographer Phil Wilkinson

On 3rd March at St Joseph’s Church in Sailortown, photographer Phil Wilkinson who is a recreational SCUBA diver with Seasearch Northern Ireland, will be showing some incredible underwater photos that he has recently taken locally showing the diverse life under the sea. Volunteers like Phil are passionate about recording marine life and helping with conservation issues. And at the same venue on 10th March Sally Chamberlain, Regional Manager Seafish, will talk about her work with the local Seafood industry.

Also present in the Barge will be artist, Grainne Laverty, who will be showcasing some of her work, with a percentage of the proceeds from the sale of paintings donated to Citizen Sea. Grainne says “My current series of work is based on the seas’ ever changing surfaces with an emphasis on the damage done to our seas and the acknowledgement of a sense of ignorance towards it. As well as creating my art to be viewed and enjoyed, I want to raise awareness and connect with a local charity like Citizen Sea”.

Citizen Sea Operations and Admin, Karina Robinson commented; “After a few difficult years in the charity and events sectors, we’re delighted to be hosting this series of talks and workshops. We’ve a brilliant line up of local speakers and experts who are immersed in life in and on the sea. Our country has historically been shrouded by myths and legends, with the sea being at the centre of many of these tales. We hope that through these talks we can inspire people to reconnect with the sea and the coastal communities who strive to protect it. We’re incredibly excited to be included in the NI Science Festival 2022 programme, encouraging local people to get involved in science”.

Tickets are available here

Published in Belfast Lough
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European space satellite imagery could replace human monitoring as an effective “health check” of Ireland’s coastal environment, according to new research by NUI Galway scientists.

As The Times Ireland edition reports, earth observation data sets recorded by European Space Agency (ESA) satellites can monitor the spread of algal blooms and other key information which is normally collected in field surveys.

A study of satellite imagery for eight Irish estuaries led by NUI Galway (NUIG) scientist Dr Liam Morrison with researcher Sita Karki showed this type of monitoring could be very cost-effective.

Estuarine and coastal waters worldwide have been facing increasing challenges from generalised use of industrial fertilisers since the second world war, the researchers note.

Macroalgal blooms are regarded as a “clear sign” of nutrient over-enrichment which estuaries are particularly susceptible to - reducing both fish species and water quality.

An Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report of 2019 found that transitional waters - as in estuaries and coastal lagoons - in Ireland have poorer water quality than groundwater systems, rivers, lakes, and coastal waters.

The research team analysed imagery for the eight Irish estuaries captured by the Sentinel-2A/B, Landsat-5, and Landsat-8 satellite missions.

The locations ranged from Rogerstown, Malahide and the Tolka on Dublin’s north side to Bannow Bay, Dungarvan and the lower Blackwater in the south-east to Courtmacsherry and Clonakilty in Co Cork.

The study was a collaboration between NUIG and the Irish Centre for High End Computing, and was funded by the EPA.

It is published in the current issue of Frontiers in Marine Science.

Read more in The Times Ireland edition here

Published in Coastal Notes

Marine environment and inshore fishing groups have welcomed a temporary reinstatement of a ban on larger vessels trawling within six nautical miles of the Irish coast.

As The Times Ireland edition reports, Minister for Marine Charlie McConalogue has also welcomed the decision by the Court of Appeal to reinstate a policy directive underpinning the ban, pending a full hearing of the case in late June.

The National Inshore Fishermen’s Association (NIFA) and the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) paid tribute yesterday to Mr McConalogue’s department.

IWDG co-ordinator Dr Simon Berrow said hoped it would “pave the way for full restoration of the ban at the next court hearing”.

“Much of the activity inside the six nautical mile limit by a small number of larger vessels is over for the winter, so it won’t make any practical difference now,” Padraig Whooley of the IWDG pointed out.

However, for marine mammals like the recent Arctic walrus recorded on Kerry’s Valentia island, it is a “positive move”, he said.

NIFA secretary Alex Crowley also said the ruling was very positive in ensuring the sustainability of stocks for some 80 per cent of the Irish fleet.

However, the Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation chief executive Patrick Murphy said that the directive still required scientific backing to support it.

The policy directive was introduced in March 2019, stating that from January 1st 2020 “all trawling by large vessels, over 18 metres in length overall, in coastal waters inside Ireland’s 6-mile zone was to cease, other than for a sprat fishery which was to be phased out during 2020 and 2021”.

Following a judicial review by two fishermen, the High Court made an order in favour of the applicants last October and the policy directive was declared “void/or of no legal effect”.

Read more in The Times here

Published in Fishing

Ireland is one of two EU member states selected for a Europe-wide citizen survey on the health of the marine and freshwater environment.

The EU’s mission for healthy oceans, seas, coastal and inland waters is seeking citizens’ priorities in Ireland and Romania on the health of ocean and inland waters.

Former Marine Institute director Dr Peter Heffernan, Ireland’s ambassador on the EU mission board, said the initiative represents the “largest transformation ever in our relationship with the ocean”.

The survey will inform policies on the “right type” of blue economy, and proposals to create a new European ocean agency.

This may be modelled on the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the scientific agency focusing conditions of the oceans, major waterways, and the atmosphere, he noted.

The EU mission aims to “know, restore and protect our ocean and waters by 2030, by reducing human pressures on marine and freshwater environments, restoring degraded ecosystems and sustainably harnessing the essential goods and services they provide”.

The mission says it is “inspired by the shape of the starfish” in pursuing five interdependent objectives – knowledge, regeneration, de-pollution, decarbonisation and governance.

“Protecting and restoring the health of our ocean is one of the defining endeavours of our time, and citizens are crucial to accomplishing this mission,” Dr Heffernan said, noting that oceans, seas, coastal and inland waters cover around 75 per cent of the earth’s surface.

Marine and freshwater environments provide drinking water, half of the oxygen we breathe and around one-sixth of the animal protein consumed, and have a major influence on weather and climate – also storing more than 25% of carbon dioxide emitted by humans, he noted.

“Knowing, restoring and protecting our ocean and waters is a shared responsibility and will only be possible with the full support of science and people,” Marine Institute chief executive Dr Paul Connolly said, supporting the survey.

“ The people of Ireland have the opportunity to share how the ocean is important to their everyday lives and to outline their priorities for achieving a healthy ocean,” he said.

The survey which runs till the end of August is here

Published in Environment
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Dun Laoghaire Regatta 2023 Coastal Class

Two Irish hopes in the 2023 Fastnet Race from Cowes will compete first in a 20-boat Coastal Class at July's Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta (VDLR).

Pre-event favourites must be the First 50 Checkmate XX, fresh from Sovereign's Cup victory (three wins from four races sailed) and the Grand Soleil 44 Samatom.

Four races and one discard for the coastal division will be under International Race Officer Con Murphy.

The course will be decided on the race day and communicated to each skipper via a dedicated Offshore WhatsApp group at least one hour before the start. 

The finish will be between the Pier Ends at the Dun Laoghaire Harbour entrance. The finishing time will be taken from the Yellowbrick tracker system.

The class will be the first to start on Thursday, with a warning signal at 1425 and 0955 on Friday. Coastal starts at 1055 on Saturday and 0955 on Sunday. 

The course will use DBSC Marks, Volvo Yellow inflatable Top Hat and Shipping Navigation Marks.

Dun Laoghaire Regatta 2023 Coastal Class Entries

GBR 8859R Jackknife J125 Andrew Hall Pwllheli
GBR 8911R Jezebel J111 1.093 Cris Miles Pwllheli Sailing Club
IRL 3435 Albireo 0.928 David Simpson RIYC
IRL 9898 Indecision J109 1.007 Declan Hayes RIYC
IRL 811 RAPTOR 1.007 Fintan Cairns RIYC
GER 6577 Opal 1.432 Frank Whelan GSC
GBR 9740R SLOOP JOHN T SWAN 40 Iain Thomson
IRL 1507 1.057 James Tyrrell ASC
IRL 1129 Jump The Gun J109 1.005 John M Kelly RIYC
GBR 7536R Hot Cookie Sunfast 3600 John O'Gorman NYC
IRL 3471 Black Velvet 0.979 Leslie Parnell RIYC
IRL 4007 Tsunami First 40.7 Michelle Farreall National Yacht Club
IRL 66 Checkmate XX 1.115 Nigel BIGGS HYC
GBR 6695R Wild Haggis Farr 30 1.060 Nigel Ingram Holyhead
GBR 9496T Bojangles J109 0.999 Paul HAMPSON Liverpool Yacht Club
IRL 1367 Boomerang Beneteau 36.7 0.997 Paul Kirwan
GBR 8992R Lightning Farr 30 1.074 Paul Sutton Holyhead Sailing Club
GBR 9047R Mojito J109 Peter Dunlop Pwllheli SC - RDYC
GBR 9244R Samatom Grand Soleil 44R 1.134 Robert Rendell HYC
IRL 44444 Magic Touch 0.979 Steve Hayes GSC
IRL 3317 Scotia First 31.7 0.930 Terence Fair Ballyholme yacht club
GBR 5373 Honey Bee Hunter HB31 0.900 William Partington Pwllheli Sailing Club / SCYC