September 2nd, 2019
Ireland is at the back of the class in protecting ocean ecosystems and creating protected areas in our seas, a conference on marine biodiversity is set to hear today.
Speaking in advance of the Bigger and Better MPA conference that kicks off this afternoon at Trinity College Dublin, Pádraic Fogarty of the Irish Wildlife Trust (IWT) said that Ireland is a “laggard” in terms of the level of protection provided to restore our ocean’s health.
Mr Fogarty said that as an island nation we “really should be at the forefront of this effort” to use marine protected areas (MPAs) as a tool in protecting biodiversity and ocean ecosystems, and “not at the back of the class” as we currently are 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.
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.
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 landmass.
Globally, 4.8 per cent of the world’s oceans is protected in implemented and actively managed marine protected areas.
A detailed analysis by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) outlining the status of EU-listed habitats and species in Ireland released last month shows that most of our marine habitats are in inadequate or bad condition.
The conference is organised by IWT and Coastwatch as part of an international project coordinated by Seas at Risk to push for bigger and better MPAs across Europe.
The Sustainable Water Network (SWAN) – an umbrella network of Irish environmental and conservation groups – is also a member of the coalition.
The coordinator of Coastwatch and TCD researcher Karin Dubsky said that Ireland needs a “radical review” on how much of our great marine commons are used. “Citizens are calling for a new approach to nature protection with public participation and transparency.”
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.