The Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien, and the Minister for Heritage and Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan, this week launched a public consultation on the process of expanding Ireland’s network of marine protected areas (MPAs). MPAs are geographically defined maritime areas with certain protections for conservation purposes. The Government aims to expand Ireland’s MPA network from 2.13% to 30% of Ireland’s maritime area by 2030.
Creating an MPA regime 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.
Marine Protected Areas in Ireland cannot be allowed to become paper parks offering no practical protection to marine biodiversity but should promote the conservation of marine biodiversity over the vested interests of the fisheries industry. A well designed network of marine protected areas in inshore waters managed at local level would offer marine reserves with complete exclusion of damaging activities to carefully managed areas with sustainable use of natural resources that favour our neglected low impact fishermen rather than industrial fishing.
We would encourage anyone with an interest in the protection of the marine environment to make a submission by clicking here.
The full report Expanding Ireland’s Marine Protected Area Network can be found here.