Minister of State, Malcolm Noonan TD, and MEP Grace O’Sullivan welcome the publication of the Expanding Ireland’s Marine Protected Area (MPA) Network report from the MPA Advisory Group through the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage.
Emphasising the importance of the timing of this report, Green Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Malcolm Noonan stated:
“This expert-led report ‘Expanding Ireland’s Marine Protected Area Network’ comes at a critical time for Ireland. Decades of poor planning and under investment in our marine and coastal areas have resulted in unsustainable outcomes for our marine environment and the coastal communities that depend on it.
“As we enter the UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration, and progress towards an ambitious post-2020 global framework for biodiversity, the development of a coherent and effective network of Marine Protected Areas is a strategic priority in helping us to achieve our goals for nature.”
The MPA advisory group, chaired by Professor Tasman Crowe, Director of UCD’s Earth Institute, worked intensively from December 2019-2020, facilitating the sharing of knowledge and perspectives on MPAs from more than 100 key societal, community, business and sectoral stakeholders.
Commenting on the importance of the engagement process and the future impact of the report, Minister Noonan added:
“This report brings us a step closer towards our Programme for Government commitment to protect 10% of Ireland’s territorial waters as soon as possible, and sets out a vision that incorporates the value of our marine ecology, culture and heritage to help us move towards 30% by 2030.
“Critically, it highlights the importance of stakeholder engagement to ensure that MPAs are designed with coastal communities at their heart. It also outlines the strategic interface between conservation and marine spatial planning, which will be vital in ensuring a science-based approach to achieving Ireland’s ecological and renewable energy objectives.”
MEP Grace O’Sullivan, Green Party Spokesperson for Marine, also welcomed the launch of the report this week:
“This is an area I have been working on since I first brought a motion on Marine Protected Areas before the Seanad in 2018. This report is a step in the right direction on the road to ensuring that, in line with the European Commission’s 2030 EU Biodiversity Strategy, 30% of our waters are designated as MPAs by 2030 and we are moving towards reaching the ambitions of the UN Agenda 2030’s Sustainable Development Goal 14 – Life Below Water.
“Ongoing and ambitious work in this area is vital. 70% of the planet is made up of oceans and seas. In Ireland we’re surrounded by seas full of marine biodiversity. But our seas and their living inhabitants are in danger. We need to protect that environment. We have a responsibility to expand our MPAs and ensure that vital ecosystems can recover and that fish can breed to a sustainable level.
“Protecting this vital resource is about protecting the livelihoods of fishers, communities and other stakeholders too. Our seas are being overfished. We must conserve and protect or fish stocks will be further critically depleted and that would be tragic on every level. It makes environmental sense and it makes economic sense.”
The final report of the MPA Advisory Group will form part of an extensive public consultation phase expected to run of five months commencing in mid-February 2021. Among other aims, it will encourage all stakeholders and the wider public to get involved by submitting their views, concerns and insights on how Ireland’s network of MPAs should be expanded.
Informed by these steps and the resulting information, the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage intends to begin developing legislation on the identification, designation and management of MPAs later in 2021.
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