Ministers have received the final report of an independent advisory group on Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in Irish waters
- Report will assist Government in meeting its target of 10% of Ireland’s maritime area to be Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) as soon as is practicable, aiming for 30% by 2030
- Public consultation on report to begin later this year
Minister Darragh O’Brien T.D., Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, and Minister of State Malcolm Noonan T.D. have received the final report of an independent advisory group on Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). The report explores the need to expand Ireland’s MPA network, the benefits and costs of doing so, and how Ireland should go about doing it.
A significant finding of the report is that under current legislation many threatened and important marine habitats, species and ecosystems that aren’t covered by the EU Birds and Habitats Directives cannot be afforded the protection necessary to meet Ireland’s international commitments and legal obligations. It also identified the possibility to greatly improve the level of stakeholder engagement and participation in the site selection and management process.
Chaired by Professor Tasman Crowe of the UCD Earth Institute, the advisory group comprised 20 experts in life and ocean sciences, marine socio-economics, maritime culture, governance and legislation. It was tasked with providing important technical advice and recommendations on the processes required and the challenges to be addressed in the future expansion of Ireland’s network of MPAs, based on the group’s own work and on the views of a wide range of stakeholders.
MPAs are geographically defined maritime areas that provide levels of protection to achieve conservation objectives. They support economic activity associated with the sea by ensuring that activity is kept at a level that ensures the seas and oceans continue to support life and human health. They also help reduce the effects of climate change and ocean acidification.
Commenting after receiving the report, Minister O’Brien stated:
“Never before have we, as a nation, faced the twin global crises of climate change and accelerating biodiversity loss on land and at sea. This comprehensive report represents a Call for Collective Action on behalf of our people and our natural marine environment, to ensure that we can sustain clean, healthy, diverse and productive oceans and seas around Ireland, both now and in the future. Minister Noonan and I sincerely thank Professor Crowe and his colleagues for providing this valuable and timely report today.
The expansion of our network of MPAs is of great importance to us all here in Ireland, not least because the sea is in our blood and supports so many livelihoods and communities, but also because it unlocks future solutions to serious challenges that we face. Not only can MPAs provide us with answers to the challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss, they also hold a key to our future – as a maritime nation that’s home to a bountiful and sustainable source of food, green energy and tourism activity for example. In this context, later this year we will be welcoming the views of the public and all stakeholders on this report and the process that lies before us.”
Many of the challenges and recommendations set out in the advisory group report link with discussions this week as part of EU Green Week 2020. The annual EU event’s focus this year is on Biodiversity, Nature and a Green Recovery, highlighting biodiversity’s role in supporting and stimulating recovery in a post-pandemic world.
Minister Noonan added:
“As highlighted over the last number of days at EU Green Week 2020, biodiversity, nature and the green recovery all play a significant role in supporting and sustaining productive and healthy marine ecosystems into the future. This is our ongoing vision for Ireland’s marine environment – one that can not only sustain nature and people and support livelihoods, but also one that brings us together to solve some very real crises of our time.”
Chair of the MPA Advisory Group, Professor Crowe, stated:
“Myself and the members of the advisory group were delighted and privileged to be part of the process to develop the best possible advice for the expansion of Ireland’s network of MPAs in the future. Our aim was to provide a comprehensive and balanced synthesis of current thinking and relevant evidence. We were particularly encouraged and inspired by the myriad of views and opinions shared with us by the wide range of stakeholder groups and organisations with whom we engaged during the process. We are grateful that so many individuals and groups contributed in a real way to the development of the report. Their views really brought home to us the value of this process and what it could achieve.”
Minister O’Brien intends to publish the Marine Protected Area Advisory Group’s report for an extensive period of public consultation in late 2020 and early 2021