March 22nd, 2019
Two of Ireland’s flagship nature conservation groups have
joined forces with an international network of concerned NGOs to push for
bigger and better marine protected areas (MPAs).
The Irish Wildlife Trust (IWT) and Coastwatch Ireland, alongside prominent European marine advocacy organisation, Seas at Risk, have launched a project that is set to put the issue on the State’s agenda.
As part of their new project, the groups will be pushing politicians to enact legislation for the MPAs designation process as stipulated under the EU’s Marine Strategy Framework.
The Sustainable Water Network (SWAN) – an umbrella network of Irish environmental and conservation groups – is already a member of the Seas at Risk coalition.
Ireland has an
international target of protecting 10 per cent of
waters by 2020 and
30 per cent by 2030. Currently, just over two per cent of Irish waters are
protected, the second lowest percentage in Europe.
MPAs are any
area of intertidal or subtidal terrain, together with its associated flora,
fauna and cultural features, which is protected by law. They include marine
reserves, fully protected marine areas, and marine parks.
The vast majority of this is for estuarine and coastal waters, with little to no protection of Irish deep-sea waters to date despite possessing a marine territory 10 times our land mass.
Announcing the new partnership
today, IWT campaign officer Pádraic Fogarty said that it is unacceptable for an
island nation with “the most important marine areas” to have vast unprotected
bodies of water.
“We are far behind other nations in taking the
necessary steps to protect our seas,” Mr Fogarty said, adding it was time for
the Government to grant marine life precedence on its agenda.
“After delaying the process for
years, we now need to urgently get on with the task of creating large,
effective and well-managed MPAs which will restore marine life to all its
glory,” Mr Fogarty said.
Coastwatch coordinator, Karin
Dubsky, said that effective marine life protection requires both “public
participation” and “best-practice management” so that the new project would not
reach a cul-de-sac of bureaucracy.
Last May, the Seanad passed a motion calling for the Government to protect half of Ireland’s seas and ocean with community-driven Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).
The motion, brought by Green Party’s Grace O’Sullivan, calls on the government to publish an Oceans Bill to meet its European and International obligations and protect 50 per cent of our coasts and seas through marine protection.
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