What’s to be won at Ireland’s Citizens’ Assembly on biodiversity loss?

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Citizens Assembly on Biodiversity Loss

In May earlier this year, within the walls of Dublin Castle, a very special meeting took place. Chaired by Dr. Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin, 99 Irish Citizens gathered to learn about biodiversity loss in Ireland, and what can be done to stop it. 

This was the first meeting of Ireland’s Citizens’ Assembly on biodiversity loss.

This is the first Citizens’ Assembly anywhere in the world to debate and discuss the decline of nature. Understandably, there was considerable excitement both in the room and from those dialled in online. You can watch this meeting back on YouTube.

Professor Robert Watson (Former Chair of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services) first addressed the Citizens, giving a sobering presentation on the extent of biodiversity loss from a global perspective.

Later, it was especially poignant when biodiversity experts Dr. Ferdia Marnell (National Parks and Wildlife Service) and Professor Tasman Crowe (University College Dublin) contrasted the stark message from Professor Watson with the truly wonderful and beautiful wildlife Ireland has to offer today. 

Showcased beautifully on screen, the quirky, charismatic and national favourites got a mention, everything from the humble Kerry slug to the bushy-tailed red squirrel on land. Whereas the audience was treated to beautiful images of enormous ocean sunfish, basking sharks, whales and dolphins out on the open sea. 

Sunfish in Aran Islands by Aoibheann Gillespie-Mules

Sunfish in Aran Islands by Aoibheann Gillespie-Mules


However, the take-home message was clear. Biodiversity on and around this island has been impacted by human activity so much that what was once abundant is now rare. What was rare is almost extinct, and what was close to extinction is now gone. Ireland needs to take decisive action now, not only to stop, but to reverse biodiversity decline and loss.

This is where the important work of the 99-strong Assembly comes in.

The Assembly has been tasked with reviewing the evidence on biodiversity loss and using that information to make a suite of strong recommendations to the Government. If implemented properly, the Assembly’s suggestions could help guide the Government on how to effectively tackle the biodiversity crisis.

As part of this process, the Citizens’ Assembly are asking for submissions from the public and organisations to help inform their debate and deliberation. Ultimately this will help the Citizens develop their suite of solutions to solve Ireland’s biodiversity crisis. 

Considering Ireland’s seas are over seven times the size of its land mass, much of Ireland’s biodiversity occurs in the marine environment. Therefore, Fair Seas have a strong view on what can and should be done to better protect and restore our most vulnerable, rare and threatened marine habitats and species.

Our full submission to the Citizens’ Assembly can be read here including 13 of our own recommendations which we believe are essential if we are to turn the tide on marine biodiversity loss in Ireland. 

Our recommendations are focused on reducing the negative impact human activities have on wildlife, promoting the recovery of ecosystems, and strengthening the environmental basis upon which we make planning decisions in our seas.

Furthermore, our recommendations aim to improve environmental governance and accountability, and include suggestions to increase biodiversity education at school, have greater representation of young people in decision making, and critically, for these initiatives to be core funded by the Government in the long term.

If you agree with Fair Seas’ recommendations and would like to see some, or all of them implemented by the Government, please submit them to the Citizens’ Assembly using this link

The more voices calling for better protection for nature, the stronger, louder and more powerful it is.

The Citizens’ Assembly can’t initiate any new projects or programmes directly, but as the representative voice of all Irish citizens on biodiversity loss, their recommendations will be difficult for the Government and decision makers to ignore. Let’s make sure they know exactly what needs to be done to halt and reverse biodiversity decline.  

Healthy seas full of wildlife is the ultimate prize to be won at Ireland’s Citizens’ Assembly on Biodiversity Loss.

Fair Seas’ recommendations to the Citizens’ Assembly on how to halt and reverse biodiversity decline in Ireland’s seas:
  1.  Designate and manage at least 30% of Irish waters as a Marine Protected Area.
  2. Implement ambitious marine conservation measures to ensure ‘Good Environmental Status’ of Ireland’s seas.
  3. Invest in restoration programmes to recover our most vulnerable and biodiverse coastal habitats and endangered species.
  4. Review and amend the National Marine Planning Framework to ensure planning decisions are considerate of whole ecosystems.
  5. Implement an ambitious and effective National Biodiversity Action Plan to jumpstart nature’s recovery in Ireland.
  6. Pursue the full implementation of the Common Fisheries Policy to ensure fishing is sustainable, and MPAs are effectively managed.
  7. Ireland creates a new Government Ministerial role for biodiversity, that amongst other things, facilitates a marine biodiversity National Coordination Body, and advocates for biodiversity at a cross departmental level.
  8. Ireland creates a marine biodiversity National Coordination Body to have responsibility for the implementation of MPAs, the achievement of GES, and wider marine conservation and restoration initiatives.
  9. reland enacts a Future Generations and Environment Bill which ensures that all future legislative and policy decisions in Ireland must account for its impact on the future generations of Irish people, Irish biodiversity, and the health of the environment.
  10. On the international stage, Ireland commits to the Universal Declaration of Ocean Rights to legally recognise and protect the intrinsic value of the ocean.
  11.  Nature, biodiversity and natural environment topics are taught as part of the mainstream National and Secondary school curricula in Ireland.
  12. Greater involvement of Ireland’s youth in policy and legislative decision making across Government, not solely confined to matters of the environment.
  13.  Actions taken to tackle biodiversity loss should become Governmental ‘core responsibilities’ and funded in the long-term through the current budget system. However, the Government should explore additional revenue raising powers such as a biodiversity levy on industries profiting from the sea.



Written by Dr. Donal Griffin.

This article first appeared on FairSeas.ie

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