Ireland fails to protect Irish waters according to Irish Wildlife Trust

Published by Leigh McGowran on

July 8th, 2018

The Government has made little progress in protecting Irish waters and endangered sea life according to a new report from the Irish Wildlife Trust (IWT).

Released today, the report indicates that Ireland has failed to establish a network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) to the levels required under EU law.

The IWT has called for the government to bring legal protection for marine life in line with protections for land animals and plants under the Wildlife Act.

The report states that MPAs are essential for restoring marine biodiversity, including commercial fish populations.

Only two fish species are assessed by the Marine Institute as being fished within sustainable limits (Hake and Albacore Tuna) while 48 marine species are under threat of extinction, the conservation groups says.

MPAs do not yet have any legal status in Ireland and are therefore not protected under any of our legislation. They are protected under the European Communities (Birds and Natural) Regulations 2011.

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.

Ireland has an international target to have 10 per cent of its marine area protected by 2020, and 30 per cent by 2030 under the EU’s Marine Strategy Framework Directive. However, only 2.3 per cent of our seas is currently designated under MPAs, one of the lowest percentages in Europe.

The majority of this is estuarine and coastal waters, while there is little to no protection of Irish deep-sea waters despite Ireland possessing a marine territory 10 times its land mass.

None of the MPAs are no-take zones so some extractive activities such as fishing are still allowed to take place. Research shows that no-take zones, where no fishing or other harmful activity is permitted, provide the best results for protecting biodiversity.

A report from the University of York says effective nature conservation in the sea cannot be delivered without no-take zones.

The Seanad recently passed a motion calling for the Government to protect half of Ireland’s seas and oceans with community-driven MPAs.

MPAs also have the potential to increase the yield of fisheries, with studies in Norway pointing to a significant increase in the numbers of lobsters caught after protection areas were introduced.

Lobster Photo: PixabaySeafood and fisheries in Ireland were worth over €850 million and supported 11,000 jobs in 2014, according to an earlier IWT report.

IWT Campaigns Officer Pádraic Fogarty said that MPAs are needed as the “lynchpin” for the protection of marine ecosystems, providing legal protection for marine wildlife and pollution control.

“The Government has no excuse for not acting swiftly in meeting our obligations in this regard,” Mr Fogarty said.

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Leigh McGowran

Leigh is a final year Journalism student at DCU with interests in the environment, radio presenting and film reviews.