1st October 2021 | Press Releases

Ireland joins commitment to largest high seas Marine Protected Area for seabirds in history

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The Green Party has welcomed today’s (October 1) historic announcement that an area of 595,000 km2 will be designated as a Marine Protected Area (MPA) in the western OSPAR region of the North East Atlantic, the largest high seas MPA for seabirds in history.

Ireland’s commitment to the MPA was announced by Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan TD, at the OSPAR Ministerial Meeting in Cascais, Portugal.

The designated area spans a region eight times the size of Ireland and is home to up to five million seabirds across 22 different species, including five that are globally threatened, such as the Atlantic Puffin and the Black-legged Kittiwake. Other threatened species, such as Basking Sharks and Leatherback Turtles, also use this area.

Speaking in Cascais this afternoon after signing the Ministerial Declaration, and signalling Ireland’s support of the new MPA and 2030 Strategy, Minister Noonan said:

“The designation today of the North Atlantic Current and Evlanov Sea basin Marine Protected Area, covering an area over eight times the size of Ireland, is a really positive development in the future protection of seabirds and biodiversity. Ireland will play a lead role in protecting this area, at the same time as we work towards creating a network of Marine Protected Areas to 30% of our maritime area by 2030.”

The meeting also saw the signing of the Cascais Declaration, which commits to the implementation of OSPAR’s new North-East Atlantic Environment Strategy 2030. The Strategy is focussed on time-bound and measurable outcomes across four themes: clean seas; biologically diverse seas; productive and sustainably used seas; and seas resilient to climate change and ocean acidification. It includes a target to reduce marine litter by 50% by 2025 and by 75% by 2030, and a commitment to designate 30% of the OSPAR Maritime Area as MPA by 2030.

“The decisions made here today are crucial in dealing with the global challenges of protecting our climate, our biodiversity and our marine environment. Today, the actions we need to take are clear. Taking action together in an equitable and just way is our shared challenge.”

He also outlined the work underway in Ireland to protect our maritime area in Ireland:

“Through our Marine Protected Area process, Ireland is driving forward to build a new network of sites within our extensive maritime area, aiming to achieve 30% coverage of our waters by 2030.  Our recent consultation on this process has shown us that the Public and all sectors are urgently calling for these measures, are seeking action to protect the environment against climate change and other human-made pressures, and the Government means to deliver on that call.

“With the recent publication of the National Marine Planning Framework and the Maritime Area Planning Bill, the Government is taking bold new steps to implement integrated marine spatial planning in a way that will facilitate the Sustainable Blue Economy and support new and existing sectoral activities, while also protecting our precious marine environment for current and future generations.”

The North-East Atlantic Environment Strategy 2030 focuses on actions and outcomes to eliminate pollution and marine litter, increase biodiversity, and mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change and ocean acidification. It also commits to developing OSPAR-wide guidance on environmental standards for the construction of offshore renewable energy, ensuring that Irish offshore renewable plans meet the same standards as other European countries.

Speaking from the Waterford coast today, Green Party Spokesperson for the Marine, Grace O’Sullivan MEP said;

“From the abundant biodiversity that calls it home, to the invaluable role it plays in climate regulation, the North Atlantic in many ways can be considered Ireland’s own Amazon. For that reason, it is more important than ever that we play a leading role in protecting Atlantic nature for generations to come. I am proud of the concrete action taken by OSPAR Commission members today in establishing a massive science-based Marine Protected Area, at a time when Ireland and Europe look to do the same in our own waters in line with the Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 and the European Green Deal.”