Press release

Marine protected areas to be tripled in size

13th December 2022
Atlantic Ocean stock image

Ireland’s marine protected areas are set to more than triple in size after Cabinet approved legislation proposed by Minister Malcolm Noonan today (December 13th).

Under the new law, the size of Ireland’s protected seas will grow from 8.3% currently to 10% by next summer. It also sets Ireland on course to reach its target of having 30% of its maritime area protected by 2030.

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

“When the Green Party entered Government, the size of our marine protected areas was shamefully low at just 2.3%. We’ve already increased it almost four-fold and by the time of the next election in 2025 we’ll be well on our way to reaching 30%. This is the sort of difference that comes from having a party in government that truly cares about nature and biodiversity.”

“Delivering on our 30% promise would mean that the size of our Marine Protected Areas would be twice that of our landmass, which would give our sea life exactly the sort of support it needs to thrive. This bill will help deliver upon that ambition as well as ensuring there is adequate enforcement.”

The General Scheme of the Marine Protected Areas Bill was backed by government ministers today against the backdrop of the COP15 UN Biodiversity Conference which is currently taking place in Canada.

Green Party Spokesperson for the Marine, Grace O’Sullivan MEP praised the decision;

“The Bill is integral to Ireland's role in the European Green Deal and will see a significant scaling up of the powers that are in place under existing legislation. This will allow for the effective management and conservation of our marine environment and vulnerable ecosystems.”

The Marine Protected Areas Bill will also see two new Special Areas of Conservation created under the EU Habitats Directive, one off the northwest coast and another off the south. Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) are prime wildlife conservation areas in the country that are considered of importance at both European and Irish level.

The two deep-water sites encompass almost 3 million hectares and include extensive cold-water corals that support an array of marine species.

The selection of these two sites will more than double the area of protected reef habitat in Irish waters from 10% to 24%.

Minister Noonan will travel to COP15 tomorrow where he will be leading Ireland’s efforts to secure a transformative post-2020 global biodiversity framework with a clear, concise and motivational mission that is easy to communicate.

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