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Marine Planning and Marine Protected Areas
National Marine Planning Framework Public Consultation Report 2021 is downloadable below
New objectives on energy and on the role of the fishing industry in food security are among changes to the National Marine Planning Framework (NMPF) which are outlined in a consultation document. The NMPF public consultation was twice extended due…
Master mariner Capt Robert McCabe
Master mariner Capt Robert McCabe has been appointed to chair the Government’s first seafood/offshore renewable energy working group. The two-year appointment was confirmed by Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Darragh O’Brien. Delays in establishing the working group had…
Grace O'Sullivan
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…
The SOS Bearna delegation handing in a petition to Galway County Hall
Community group SOS Bearna has welcomed a decision by Galway county councillors to overturn a decision to permit the building to within just 15 metres of the shoreline. A setback of 30 metres from the shore has been reaffirmed for…
Most common terms used by respondents in discussing animal species to be afforded protection as part of the MPA network, according to the Public Consultation report
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…
File image of wind turbines at Arklow Bank
A new planning regime will allow SSE Renewables to expand the second phase of its Arklow Bank Wind Park, as RTÉ News reports. Under the new Maritime Area Planning Act, the company is seeking to boost its proposed expansion of…
Minister for Environment and Climate Eamon Ryan
The State’s new maritime area consent regime has been formally kick-started by Minister for Environment and Climate Eamon Ryan. The new regime allows the minister on an interim basis to issue maritime area consents (MACs) to renewable energy developers who…
The establishment of a new Maritime Area Planning Agency (MARA) is to be based in Wexford and will enable the development of offshore wind farms.
A Govenment maritime planning regime is being announced, which will enable the development of offshore wind farms.  Offshore wind farms are needed if Ireland is to achieve its climate targets and reduce dependence on imported gas and oil. The Government…
Minister for Marine Charlie McConalogue had acknowledged delays in setting up the Seafood-Offshore Renewable Energy Working Group
The Government is seeking a chair for a new seafood-offshore renewable energy working group. Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien has invited applications from “suitably qualified candidates”, with a deadline of March 25th for applying. O’Brien’s department says it is “working…
The late Mike Ocock
“Beware the perils of groupthink…” These are the wise words of Michael Ocock, the British chartered surveyor and project risk management expert with strong Irish connections who died last month at the age of 81. Ocock was keenly interested in…
Setting up on the beach for a Dublin Angling Initiative event
The Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage has opened a public consultation on Ireland’s Marine Strategy. They’re inviting observations, views and comments on the review and development of Ireland’s Marine Strategy Part 3: Programme of Measures, under the Marine…
Ireland’s water environment is in crisis. Water quality is declining and water pollution is rising at an unprecedented rate says the Environmental Network SWAN
The Sustainable Water Network (SWAN) has hit out at the Government’s draft plan for managing Ireland’s inland and coastal waters. The network of 25 environmental organisations says the River Basin Management Plan is “completely lacking in the strong ambition, measures…
A newly formed Irish environmental coalition says it is “demanding” a fifteen-fold increase in Ireland’s marine protected areas (MPAs). The Fair Seas campaign wants at least 10 per cent of Irish waters to be designated as “fully protected” by 2025,…
Screenshot of the MarinePlan.ie website
Ireland’s “first marine spatial planning portal” is now live at MarinePlan.ie. The site links planning within the maritime area and the relevant policies for each marine sector or activity listed in the National Marine Planning Framework. It covers three main…
Minister for Environment Eamon Ryan
The State’s new maritime area regulatory authority (MARA) will be established and operational from 2023, according to Minister for Environment Eamon Ryan. He said establishing MARA is “of the highest priority for Government” when he announced consultation on key aspects…
What will be the effect of Marine Protected Areas on sailing?
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…

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.

© Afloat 2022

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