The Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage,has welcomed the results of the public consultation undertaken on MPAs

 The Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage,has welcomed the results of the public consultation undertaken on the expansion of MPAs

Results will inform forthcoming Marine Protected Area legislation says Department of Housing

The Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, yesterday published the results of an independent review and analysis of its extensive public consultation undertaken on Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).

The Government aims to expand Ireland’s MPA network from 2.13% to 30% of Ireland’s maritime area by 2030. The expansion of the Marine Protected Area (MPA) network will form about twice the size of our national landmass. With a strong response of over 2,300 individual submissions received by the Department, the vast majority of respondents supported the expansion of Ireland’s MPA network and strongly supported the 30% target for coverage by 2030.

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Highlighted results from consultation

The Programme for Government target of 30% of Irish waters to be protected by 2030 as part of the MPA network was supported; while the current level of protection (at approximately 2%) was not considered sufficient;

  • 93% of respondents support the inclusion of existing conservation sites into the national MPA network
  • 91% support the key principles for the ongoing MPA process
  • Respondents noted information and data gaps along with deficits in education around marine protection
  • 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.

Informed by the extensive evidence accrued from this public consultation and the MPA process undertaken so far, the Department has begun developing stand-alone legislation to enable the identification, designation and management of MPAs in accordance with Ireland’s national and international commitments.

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

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Darragh O’Brien TD emphasised:

“Many valuable views and perspectives, covering all stakeholders and the public in general, have been highlighted through this public consultation. 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.  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. In December the Maritime Area Planning Bill, which represents the biggest reform of marine governance since the foundation of the State, was enacted. We are also progressing the establishment of the Maritime Area Regulatory Authority (MARA) as a matter of urgency.

Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform Malcolm Noonan TD said:

“It is heartening to see such widespread support for the expansion of Ireland’s Marine Protected Area Network, which will give vital protection to much-loved marine species, habitats and features and support the sustainable use of our seas. Over the course of this consultation, my Department has engaged with many groups such as environmental organisations, the fisheries sector and those living in coastal areas. I was really pleased to be able to meet with many of them myself over the summer – from Donegal to Waterford to West Cork to Kerry. It’s vitally important that we listen and engage positively with all stakeholders as we develop MPA legislation, and this is very much what we’re focussed on at the moment. I’d like to thank everyone who contributed to the consultation, and look forward to continuing the conversation over the coming months and years as we work to ensure that the benefits of increased protection for marine life are enjoyed by everyone.”

The full Independent Analysis and Report on Marine Protected Area (MPA) Public Consultation Submissions can be found here

Additional Summary of Responses:
  • The need for meaningful, early, and timely engagement with stakeholders, particularly the fishing industry, was considered critical to the MPA expansion process. 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;
  • There was broad recognition that MPAs can provide value to coastal communities in terms of eco-tourism, and that opportunities to enhance coastal and marine tourism may arise from the process, leading to economic benefits;
  • The importance of achieving Good Environmental Status, enhancing water quality, the protection of marine plant and animal species, and the restoration and / or conservation of marine habitats was emphasised in the submissions received.
  • There was also considerable emphasis on the integration of scientific evidence and an ecosystem-based approach into MPA design and implementation processes;
  • There was strong support for the proper enforcement, monitoring and management of MPAs to ensure that they are effective in achieving their goals, with respondents outlining support for the establishment of management plans for MPAs;
  • Resilience and adaptation to climate change were cited in the submissions as a key function of the MPA network, noting the role of the ocean in coastal protection, the production of oxygen, and carbon sequestration, as well as its potential for offshore renewable energy;
  • Submissions from key sectors, including Fisheries and Aquaculture, Offshore Renewable Energy and Tourism, highlighted the need for meaningful engagement with them as being important towards identifying and achieving MPAs. Furthermore, it was suggested that those who operate in an environmentally friendly manner could be exemplars to support delivery of change towards establishing MPAs.

About the respondents

A total of 2,311 responses to the public consultation were received by the Department, with the highest percentage of responses to the consultation’s online survey portal coming from the Environmental sector, followed by Education, Health and Fisheries. A very wide range of representative bodies, organisations and enterprises also made submissions to the consultation.

Source: Press Release

Brian J McMullin Solicitors
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Public Consultation demonstrates strong support for expansion of MPAs

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