Consultation process opens for Marine Protected Areas

19 August 2020 

A consultation process for Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) has been announced by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage and will be open until 18 September. 

The announcement is in line with the terms outlined in the Programme for Government, which promised the opening of a consultation within its first 100 days. 

According to Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien, the move represents the “first stage of a broader, comprehensive consultation process on Marine Protected Areas which will continue in the coming months”. 

MPAs have the capacity to protect and maintain biodiversity and could help address the “negative effects of climate change”, Minister of State Malcolm Noonan said. 

“It should therefore be targeted and underpinned by the best scientific evidence and advice, in order to deliver the best outcome”, he added. 

Professor Tasman Crowe of the UCD Earth Institute appointed the independent Advisory Group which will oversee stakeholder engagement for the process. 

The consultation will take place through an online questionnaire and a “series of moderated online meetings”, both of which will, “go on to inform the work of the MPA Advisory Group in finalising its technical report and recommendations for the Minister in the Autumn”, according to the Department. 

The Department will publish the final report of the Advisory Group and will invite comments and views from the public on the matter. 

Grace O’Sullivan (centre) Photo: Niall Sargent

Ireland’s record on MPAs 

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. 

The State has an international target of protecting 10 per cent of its waters by 2020 and a subsequent aim of 30 per cent by 2030. 

To date, just over two per cent of Irish waters are protected, which is the second lowest percentage in Europe. 

The Seanad called on the State to up its ambition significantly in 2018, by passing a motion that called for the Government to designate half of Ireland’s seas and oceans as Marine Protected Areas. 

The motion was brought by then-Green Party Senator Grace O’Sullivan, and was voted through with the support of all parties except Fine Gael.