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Displaying items by tag: Marine Protected Areas

The European Commission is proposing to set legally binding nature restoration targets on both sea and land.

The Nature Restoration Law will apply to every EU member state and will complement existing laws and targets.

The proposal has been welcomed by Irish marine environmental network Fair Seas and Birdwatch Ireland – with the latter organisation describing it as “transformative for Ireland’s degraded ecosystems”.

It will also “help us tackle climate breakdown”, according to Birdwatch Ireland, pointing out that degraded habitats are less resilient to the effects of climate change.

As it states, 85% of Ireland’s internationally important habitats are in poor condition and not able to function properly, which means we cannot fully avail of the services they provide such as carbon storage in peatlands and flood attenuation.

Also, 26% of Ireland’s birds regularly occurring bird species are Red Listed birds of conservation concern in Ireland with farmland birds the fastest declining group of birds. One third of Ireland's wild bee species are threatened with extinction, it stays.

Birdwatch Ireland’s marine policy and advocacy officer Sinéad Loughran said that “a healthy, thriving ocean is fundamental for the survival of humankind,but the reality is that our seas have never been in a worse state than they are today”.

“Twenty-three of Ireland’s twenty-four breeding seabirds are red or amber listed birds of conservation concern. Ensuring they have sufficient fish to eat is essential,”she said.

“If given a proper chance, and with a helping hand, our ocean will have the chance to heal, and nature can be restored at sea. With a strong EU Nature Restoration Law, there is the chance to reverse much of the harm caused by humans and fisheries,”Ms Loughran said.

Birdwatch Ireland head of advocacy Oonagh Duggan noted that a the recent National Biodiversity conference, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that "the business case for biodiversity is compelling: the benefits of restoring nature outweigh the costs ten-fold, and the cost of inaction is even higher."

“We now need the Irish government to back the highest ambition possible in this law and to set up a Nature Restoration fund to restore our decimated biodiversity and to provide a safe future for all of us,”Ms Duggan said.

Fair Seas said that highly or fully protected marine protected areas (MPAs) are “known globally as the best way to restore marine environments”.

“By setting up large no-take zones, where no industrial activity is permitted, Ireland can implement this new law to meet its full potential for biodiversity recovery and climate stabilisation,”it said.

“The law states that habitats and ecosystems with the ‘greatest potential for removing and storing carbon and preventing or reducing the impact of natural disasters such as floods will be the top priorities”, it said.

“These criteria put Ireland in a prime position as our marine ecosystems like seagrass meadows and kelp forests offer both storm protection and store large amounts of carbon. The sediments of our continental shelf area have also been identified as areas with enormous carbon storage capacity if undisturbed by industrial activity,” Fair Seas said.

“Only 6.4% of the ocean globally is covered by MPAs and less than 2% are no-take MPAs, where full protection is given to the ecosystem and species at risk,” it said.

“ The new ecosystem restoration bill offers Ireland the opportunity to revitalise our seas. No-take MPAs offer the entire ecosystem the chance to recover, from the seafloor to the shoaling surface waters and the rocky outcrops of nesting seabird colonies,” Fair Seas said.

“Currently, only 2% of Ireland’s seas are protected, however, there is no active monitoring or management in place to ensure they are actually protected,”it said.

Fair Seas is calling for 30% of Ireland’s waters to be placed within MPAs by the year 2030.

“This aligns with our government's previous international commitments and would satisfy our new obligations within the Nature Restoration Law,”it said.

The Fair Seas campaign is led by a coalition of Ireland’s 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, the Coomhola Salmon Trust, Irish Environmental Network and Coastwatch.

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

Published in Marine Planning
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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

The Irish Wildlife Trust has welcomed a European Parliament report calling for action on bottom trawling but has questioned why most MEPs did not support a ban on the fishing technique in marine protected areas (MPAs).

A report by Portuguese socialist MEP Isabel Carvalhais entitled “Towards a sustainable blue economy in the EU” was adopted by MEPs this week.

The IWT has queried why the original text of the report calling for a ban on bottom trawling in all MPAs was not adopted, even though it had previously been supported in the European Parliament’s Fisheries Committee.

“Instead, the majority of MEPs, including Irish Fine Gael and Sinn Féin representatives, voted to dilute the text and only restrict bottom trawling in so-called “strictly protected” areas, which cover only 1% of EU waters,” the IWT noted.

Another amendment calling for the EU to prohibit all environmentally damaging extractive industrial activities like mining and fossil fuel extraction in MPAs was adopted by all Irish MEPs.

The IWT said it believed bottom trawling “falls within the category of ‘environmentally damaging extractive industrial activities”. It noted that the International Union for the Conservation of Nature defines “industrial fishing” as all fishing using trawling gear that is dragged or towed across the seafloor or through the water column, and fishing using purse seines and large longlines.

Shadow rapporteur for the Greens/EFA group Grace O'Sullivan said the report “marks a serious step forward for the Fisheries Committee, which is a traditionally tough place to get environment protection legislation passed”.

“Our group achieved some key wins in terms of language on bottom-trawling, mapping carbon-rich marine habitats, and a ban on extractive activities in MPAs,” she said.

“However I am dismayed that a majority of MEPs are still unwilling to effectively protect MPAs,” O’Sullivan continued.

“In many MPAs in northern Europe, bottom-trawling is actually more intense than elsewhere. This is a complete contradiction in terms. Together with civil society, our work continues now, as member states must meet commitments under the Biodiversity Strategy and as the Commission prepares its ‘Action Plan to conserve fisheries resources and protect marine ecosystems", she said

The European Parliament also voted to map and restore carbon-rich marine habitats, protecting them from activities that can disturb and release carbon stored in the seabed, like bottom trawling.

IWT marine policy and research officer Regina Classen welcomed this amendment as “particularly welcome and timely as Ireland plans to increase its MPA coverage to 30% by 2030”.

Published in Marine Wildlife

A “vast majority” of respondents in a public consultation on marine protected areas (MPAs) support the Government’s plans for expanding the network, according to an independent review.

Some 93 per cent of respondents also support the inclusion of existing conservation sites into the national MPA network, the review for the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage has found.

The Programme for Government aims to increase MPAs from around two per cent to 30 per cent of Irish waters by 2030, and most respondents felt the current level was insufficient.

Some 91% support the “key principles for the ongoing MPA process”, the department said.

It said respondents noted information and data gaps along with deficits in education around marine protection.

The need for “meaningful, early, and timely engagement with stakeholders, particularly the fishing industry, was considered critical to the MPA expansion process”, the department says.

“Respondents stated that the role of stakeholders and the general public was central to successful implementation and management of MPAs, and that coastal and island communities and businesses need to be supported throughout the establishment and implementation of any MPA,” it said.

“Respondents called for urgent action, based on evidence, along with increased research and resourcing, in order to protect our marine life and also the benefits to the economy and society that come from having a diverse and productive marine environment,” it said.

A total of 2,311 responses to the public consultation were received by the department, it says.

The highest percentage of responses to the consultation’s online survey portal came from the environmental sector, followed by education, health and fisheries, it said.

“ A very wide range of representative bodies, organisations and enterprises also made submissions to the consultation,”it noted.

It said it had begun developing “stand-alone legislation” to enable identification, designation and management of MPAs to meet Ireland’s national and international commitments.

Currently, there is no definition of an MPA in Irish law, and environment protections under the Wildlife Acts only apply to the foreshore.

MPAs are geographically defined maritime areas with certain protections for conservation purposes. In addition to conserving marine species and habitats, MPAs can support maritime economic activity and reduce the effects of climate change and ocean acidification.

“Many valuable views and perspectives, covering all stakeholders and the public in general, have been highlighted through this public consultation,” Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien said.

“The strong support for the MPA process, expressed through these submissions, is a positive indication that stakeholders and the wider public are keenly interested in having a clean, healthy, diverse and productive marine environment,” he said.

“I thank all of those who made a submission for their time, their insights and their substantive input. This is an urgent issue and my department is making strides in the protection of our maritime area,” he said.

Mr O'Brien noted that the Maritime Area Planning Bill, which he described as the “biggest reform of marine governance since the foundation of the State”, was enacted in December.

“We are also progressing the establishment of the Maritime Area Regulatory Authority (MARA) as a matter of urgency,” he said.

Environmentalists have been critical of the priority given to maritime area planning legislation, primarily for offshore renewable, in contrast to the timeline for legislation for MPAs.

The full report on Marine Protected Area (MPA) Public Consultation Submissions can be found here

Published in Marine Planning

Where will marine protected areas and marine conservation zones be located in Irish coastal waters and what effects will they have on sailing, watersports generally, angling, commercial fishing, shipping?

The Marine Environment Section in the Water Division of the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage appears to be the ‘lead’ in decision-making about the location of these areas, on which work is underway this month, following the passing of the Marine Areas Planning Bill by the Oireachtas in mid-December. This Department described the passing of that Bill as “the biggest reform of marine governance since the foundation of the State.”

Another State agency, MARA, is being set up which will focus on offshore wind projects, water and wastewater infrastructure, bridges, marinas, coastal protection works, flood relief works and undersea telecommunications cables and power interconnectors. As far as I can determine at present, there 27 offshore wind farms planned for Irish coastal waters. Already there have been threats of legal action from commercial interests against some effects of the new Marine Planning Bill.

Who will decide the Marine Protected Areas?Who will decide the Marine Protected Areas?

On my Podcast this week, I’m focusing on how decisions will be made about the marine protected areas. In an island nation, the Department of the Marine does not have the leading role in making major maritime decisions. The Chief Executive of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, a strong voice about the marine environment, says that “distant civil servants” not be allowed “foist these new designations” upon the maritime community.

Listen to the Podcast here

Published in Tom MacSweeney
Tagged under

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
Tagged under

 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
Tagged under

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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