Minister must ‘act now’ to address Ireland’s extinction crisis

Published by Niall Sargent on

February 2oth, 2019

The Irish Wildlife Trust (IWT) has called on the Minister for Heritage to act now and prioritise tackling Ireland’s worsening extinction crisis as the National Biodiversity Conference kicks off this morning.

While the conservation group said that it was looking forward to participating in the sell-out conference in Dublin Castle, IWT wants to see greater engagement from Josepha Madigan with NGOs to “address the perilous state of nature in this country”.

IWT Campaign Officer, Pádraic Fogarty said that while the natural world is in “deep crisis” we appear to be a long way from “facing up to the reality of extinction and habitat loss in Ireland”.

 “We have a moral as well as a legal duty to prevent ecological catastrophe and we urgently need political leadership to provide vision for this transition, as well as in implementing existing environmental plans and regulations,” Mr Fogarty said.

A report from the World Wildlife Fund and the Zoological Society of London released last October found that 60 per cent of the world’s large animals had disappeared since the 1970s.

Eurasian Curlew (Numenius arquata) Photo: Mike Pennington

Eurasian Curlew (Numenius arquata) Photo: Mike Pennington

Earlier this month, a paper in the journal Biological Conservation found that scientists are currently seeing rapid rates of decline in insect populations worldwide. Up to 40 per cent of insect species, including species of bees and butterflies, may be extinct in the coming decades, the study warned.

Writing in The Irish Times this week, the Director of the National Biodiversity Data Centre Dr Liam Lysaght said that one in every four of the 3,000 species that have undergone a red-list conservation assessment is threatened with extinction in Ireland.

Mr Fogarty said that several policy changes will help to counter this worrying trend, including adequate funding for an independent nature conservation agency.

The group is also calling for the Government to properly implement existing laws such as the current National Biodiversity Action Plan and the National Peatlands Strategy.

Greater cross-government action to transform the forestry, agriculture and fishing sectors to help restore wildlife populations is also needed, the group said.

Opening the conference this morning, Ms Madigan announced six new actions from her department that would appear to at least partially answer some of the requests from the IWT.

During her first major speech on the issue of biodiversity since taking office in 2017, Ms Madigan announced that her department will double funding for biodiversity action to 1 million by 2021, establish a climate action programme and create a business & biodiversity platform.

She said that she will also double funding to tackle invasive species, push to enact legislation to place a legal duty on public and local authorities to ensure that the current biodiversity action plan is respected in decision making.

Her department will also sign a memorandum of understanding with the Gardaí in order to crack down on wildlife crime, including increased surveillance and more prosecutions.

Ms Madigan said that greater leadership from Leinster House is needed and that she will advocate for greater nature protection with her colleagues across government.

“Species won’t thrive without that leadership and many of them won’t even survive,” she said. “There are many leaders in this room. I call on you, each and every one, to lead within your own sphere of influence for a new horizon for nature in Ireland.”

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Niall Sargent

Niall is the Editor of The Green News. He is a multimedia journalist, with an MA in Investigative Journalism from City University, London