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Marine Planning and Marine Protected Areas
Galway Paramedic Patrick Dunne, a keen kitesurfer and sailor, has set up a petition opposing controversial Beach Bye-Laws in Galway
Paramedic Patrick Dunne is a keen kitesurfer, windsurfer, sailor, swimmer and general watersports enthusiast who has volunteered with the RNLI. He has initiated a petition opposing Galway County Council’s new draft bye-laws which propose to ban watersports apart from swimming…
Carien Droppers  - The Dutch shipping expert warns Ireland should take into account navigational hazards posed by offshore wind farms in marine planning
Dutch shipping expert Carien Droppers has warned that Ireland should take into account navigational hazards posed by offshore wind farms in marine planning. Droppers, who spoke at last week’s “Navigating to 2050” conference hosted by Irish Lights in Dublin Castle,…
Joint Committee on Environment and Climate Action's Report on Biodiversity was published this month
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…
Aoife O'Mahony Campaign Manager, Fair Seas
There is strong support for more legal protection for Irish waters, according to a coalition of Ireland’s leading environmental non-governmental organisations and networks. Fair Seas has revealed details of its survey conducted to learn about the connection Irish people have…
The first offshore wind auction is expected to provide a route to market for up to 2.5GW of offshore renewable energy to the Irish grid, which is “enough to power 2.5 million Irish homes with clean electricity”, according to Minister Eamon Ryan
Minister for Energy Eamon Ryan has described Government approval of terms and conditions for the first offshore wind auction as “another massive step forward” towards Ireland’s future as an “international green energy hub”. ORESS 1, the first auction for offshore…
European Ombudsman logo
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…
While there is general agreement, it seems – and public support about the future importance of wind energy all may not be going smoothly in getting agreement between the various interests, including fishing
The “Spatial Squeeze” is a term you can expect to hear quite a lot about in the immediate future. It’s all to do with the increasing competition for space in the offshore sector. Wind energy developers require space for wind-generating…
Navigating to 2050 banner
Irish Lights is hosting Navigating To 2050 – A safe and sustainable maritime future, a two-day hybrid conference bringing together key national and international leaders to debate a safe and sustainable route to 2050.  The event will be held in…
Irish Fishing Industry CEOs on a WindFarm visit in Scotland
The Irish fishing industry is not being consulted properly about the development of offshore wind farms, according to the Chief Executive of the longest-established fish producer’s organisation in the State, the Irish Fish Producers Organisation. According to Aodh O Donnell,…
A Barrel jellyfish - a new environmental group has come together to improve the collective impact for nature in the Irish Sea
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…
File image of the Custom House in Dublin
The State is recruiting for a chief executive designate/chief executive officer for the Maritime Area Regulatory Authority (MARA), which will be responsible for regulating marine planning development and activity in Ireland’s maritime area. Reporting to the board of MARA, the CEO…
National Ports Study - It claims to be the most detailed analysis ever conducted on the readiness of Irish ports for the development of offshore renewable energy
Belfast is the only port on the island of Ireland which is ready to construct offshore wind farms, according to a new study published by Wind Energy Ireland. The national ports study published at the body’s annual offshore wind energy…
Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Darragh O’Brien
The Government has approved development of a general scheme of a Bill for designation and management of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in Ireland’s maritime territory. The approval has been welcomed by Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Darragh O’Brien,…
The north Donegal coast has been identified by the Fair Seas coalition as a high biodiversity “Area of Interest” for potential Marine Protected Area (MPA) designation
The north Donegal coast has been identified by the Fair Seas coalition as a high biodiversity “Area of Interest” for potential Marine Protected Area (MPA) designation. Only 2% of Irelands' seas are currently protected. The Fair Seas environmental NGO coalition…
Early and better stakeholder consultation on offshore wind installation is vital, and more quantitative studies are needed to assess the monetary loss to fishing, a European Commission official has told an international workshop. The workshop also heard how underwater noise…
Inshore sprat fishing
The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine is inviting submissions from stakeholders on the draft Seafood Development Programme 2021-27. Potential funding of up to €258.4 million for Ireland’s seafood and marine sector may be available for the programme under…

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) - FAQS

Marine protected areas (MPAs) are geographically defined maritime areas where human activities are managed to protect important natural or cultural resources. In addition to conserving marine species and habitats, MPAs can support maritime economic activity and reduce the effects of climate change and ocean acidification.

MPAs can be found across a range of marine habitats, from the open ocean to coastal areas, intertidal zones, bays and estuaries. Marine protected areas are defined areas where human activities are managed to protect important natural or cultural resources.

The world's first MPA is said to have been the Fort Jefferson National Monument in Florida, North America, which covered 18,850 hectares of sea and 35 hectares of coastal land. This location was designated in 1935, but the main drive for MPAs came much later. The current global movement can be traced to the first World Congress on National Parks in 1962, and initiation in 1976 of a process to deliver exclusive rights to sovereign states over waters up to 200 nautical miles out then began to provide new focus

The Rio ‘Earth Summit’ on climate change in 1992 saw a global MPA area target of 10% by the 2010 deadline. When this was not met, an “Aichi target 11” was set requiring 10% coverage by 2020. There has been repeated efforts since then to tighten up MPA requirements.

Marae Moana is a multiple-use marine protected area created on July 13th 2017 by the government of the Cook islands in the south Pacific, north- east of New Zealand. The area extends across over 1.9 million square kilometres. However, In September 2019, Jacqueline Evans, a prominent marine biologist and Goldman environmental award winner who was openly critical of the government's plans for seabed mining, was replaced as director of the park by the Cook Islands prime minister’s office. The move attracted local media criticism, as Evans was responsible for developing the Marae Moana policy and the Marae Moana Act, She had worked on raising funding for the park, expanding policy and regulations and developing a plan that designates permitted areas for industrial activities.

Criteria for identifying and selecting MPAs depends on the overall objective or direction of the programme identified by the coastal state. For example, if the objective is to safeguard ecological habitats, the criteria will emphasise habitat diversity and the unique nature of the particular area.

Permanence of MPAs can vary internationally. Some are established under legislative action or under a different regulatory mechanism to exist permanently into the future. Others are intended to last only a few months or years.

Yes, Ireland has MPA cover in about 2.13 per cent of our waters. Although much of Ireland’s marine environment is regarded as in “generally good condition”, according to an expert group report for Government published in January 2021, it says that biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation are of “wide concern due to increasing pressures such as overexploitation, habitat loss, pollution, and climate change”.

The Government has set a target of 30 per cent MPA coverage by 2030, and moves are already being made in that direction. However, environmentalists are dubious, pointing out that a previous target of ten per cent by 2020 was not met.

Conservation and sustainable management of the marine environment has been mandated by a number of international agreements and legal obligations, as an expert group report to government has pointed out. There are specific requirements for area-based protection in the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD), the OSPAR Convention, the UN Convention on Biological Diversity and the UN Sustainable Development Goals. 

Yes, the Marine Strategy Framework directive (2008/56/EC) required member states to put measures in place to achieve or maintain good environmental status in their waters by 2020. Under the directive a coherent and representative network of MPAs had to be created by 2016.

Ireland was about halfway up the EU table in designating protected areas under existing habitats and bird directives in a comparison published by the European Commission in 2009. However, the Fair Seas campaign, an environmental coalition formed in 2022, points out that Ireland is “lagging behind “ even our closest neighbours, such as Scotland which has 37 per cent. The Fair Seas campaign wants at least 10 per cent of Irish waters to be designated as “fully protected” by 2025, and “at least” 30 per cent by 2030.

Nearly a quarter of Britain’s territorial waters are covered by MPAs, set up to protect vital ecosystems and species. However, a conservation NGO, Oceana, said that analysis of fishing vessel tracking data published in The Guardian in October 2020 found that more than 97% of British MPAs created to safeguard ocean habitats, are being dredged and bottom trawled. 

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

Current protection in marine areas beyond 12 nautical miles is limited to measures taken under the EU Birds and Habitats Directives or the OSPAR Convention. This means that habitats and species that are not listed in the EU Directives, but which may be locally, nationally or internationally important, cannot currently be afforded the necessary protection

Yes. In late March 2022, Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien said that the Government had begun developing “stand-alone legislation” to enable identification, designation and management of MPAs to meet Ireland’s national and international commitments.

Yes. Environmental groups are not happy, as they have pointed out that legislation on marine planning took precedence over legislation on MPAs, due to the push to develop offshore renewable energy.

No, but some activities may be banned or restricted. Extraction is the main activity affected as in oil and gas activities; mining; dumping; and bottom trawling

The Government’s expert group report noted that MPA designations are likely to have the greatest influence on the “capture fisheries, marine tourism and aquaculture sectors”. It said research suggests that the net impacts on fisheries could ultimately be either positive or negative and will depend on the type of fishery involved and a wide array of other factors.

The same report noted that marine tourism and recreation sector can substantially benefit from MPA designation. However, it said that the “magnitude of the benefits” will depend to a large extent on the location of the MPA sites within the network and the management measures put in place.

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