porcupine shelf southern canyons NPWS conservation lacks scientific

The NPWS approach to designating new conservation areas lacks scientific integrity, states CEO of the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation

Irish Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority 2023

Lack of consultation is a further slap in the face for fishermen says KFO

Three new proposed marine conservation areas which have been foisted upon fishermen and other stakeholders in the last ten months represent a new low with absolutely zero meaningful stakeholder engagement.

That’s according to the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation CEO, Seán O’Donoghue who said that for the initial proposed Special Area of Conservation (SAC) along the Porcupine Shelf and Southern Canyons to be followed by the announcement of a Special Protection Area (SPA) in the North West Irish Sea as recently as July, constitutes the most chaotic form of governance and will ultimately alienate fishermen, driving a wedge between them and Government.

Mr O’Donoghue said: “Minister-of-State Malcom Noonan shocked everybody outside his own Department with the announcement of two proposed new Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) at the COP15 UN Biodiversity Conference in Montréal last December. We lodged a formal objection to this given the lack of scientific data underlying the proposal and its potential impact on our industry yet in spite of sustained communiques to the Minister and his officials, we have yet to receive any meaningful response.

“To add insult to injury, Minister Noonan followed the same modus operandi on July 13th last by announcing an SPA in the same autocratic fashion – this time relating to seabirds, giving rise to genuine concern that this will have an impact on fishing activities since it overlaps with nephrops (prawn) grounds in the North West Irish Sea. We have made the Department aware of our position and have lodged a submission but again, we have major concerns that not only are we not being listened to, but we are actually being treated with contempt. 

“Insofar as the proposed Porcupine Shelf SAC goes, it is akin to designating the combined area of counties Dublin, Wicklow, Wexford, Kildare and Louth based on the presence of a habitat equal in size to the Phoenix Park. There is even less logic regarding the Southern Canyons SAC designating the same area based on the presence of habitat the size of St Stephen’s Green . This is the archetypal example of using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

“We must also determine what analysis was used to derive the proposed outline of the SPA as no information was provided by NPWS. This begs the question of whether there was actually any analysis performed or whether it was an arbitrary decision. There is a pressing need for clarity around this issue. Without knowing the basis for the delineation, it’s impossible to determine if it’s scientifically robust or not.

“We believe it was a complete solo-run with zero advance consultation with other Government Departments and stakeholders – therefore it simply cannot be allowed to happen. It flies in the face of both good governance and best practice while using technical and scientific advice which is flawed. I know that other Departments are very displeased at how the NPWS and Minister Noonan have managed this debacle,” concluded Mr O’Donoghue.

Source: Press Release

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Brian J McMullin Soliciors Killybegs
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