‘Fair Seas’ campaign demanding fifteen-fold increase in Ireland’s Marine Protected Areas
Embargoed: 05:00 Wednesday 23rd February 2022
Leading national environmental groups have joined forces to launch a new campaign to rapidly expand Marine Protected Areas in Irish Waters. The Fair Seas campaign is calling for at least 10% of Irish waters to be designated as ‘Fully Protected’ by 2025 and at least 30% by 2030.
Fair Seas aim is to see Ireland, with a renewed appreciation of the ocean, become a world leader in marine protection, giving our species, habitats and coastal communities the opportunity to thrive.
A Marine Protected Area (MPA) is a part of the ocean that is protected by laws to conserve species, habitats and ecosystems. MPAs are a vital tool in improving ocean health. Currently, there is no definition of MPA in Irish law. Fair Seas is urgently asking our government to create robust and ambitious legislation so that our waters can be effectively protected, managed and monitored right out to the edge of the continental shelf.
Today Ireland’s MPA coverage is at a mere 2.13% lagging behind even our closest neighbours in Scotland at 37%. Ireland has not met its previous target of 10% protection by 2020. Fair Seas will hold the government to account so it does not miss its upcoming targets. Ireland’s maritime area is seven times the size of our landmass and is home to spectacular wildlife including endangered basking sharks, humpback whales, blue whales, otters, seals, puffins and even deep-sea coral reefs. Fair Seas will publish its first expert report underpinned by scientific data in summer 2022, which will identify where we need MPAs in Irish waters.
Aoife O’Mahony, Campaign Manager at Fair Seas says; “In January 2022 Ireland showed its passion for the ocean by speaking out against Russian missile testing. Voices from the fishing industry, government, environmental groups and the public were all echoing the need to protect our marine biodiversity and commercially important fish stocks. Fair Seas is calling on those same voices to ask the Irish government to follow up and secure a network of effective well-managed Marine Protected Areas.”
Dr Simon Berrow, CEO of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group says; “Fair Seas is a new and inclusive approach to environmental campaigning. Fair Seas wants to see our government invite all stakeholders to collaborate on a holistic approach to MPA designation and management. Fair Seas will provide outreach, education, advocacy, data analysis and reporting to support local engagement and decision-making. Fair Seas is already working with schools, universities and communities to bring a little piece of the ocean into the lives of everyone on the island of Ireland.”
Biodiversity: Ireland’s marine species, habitats and ecosystems are declining and face severe pressures from human activities. We now have the opportunity to conserve and restore our seas while developing a renewed sense of ocean stewardship across Ireland, helping our island nation become a world leader in marine protection and giving our species, habitats and coastal communities the opportunity to thrive.
Climate Change: Our ocean is one of the largest carbon sinks on the planet, but when the seafloor and marine habitats are disturbed its ability to store carbon is reduced. Seafloor sediments, seagrass meadows and kelp forests are key players in ocean carbon sequestration and storage. MPAs have the potential to sequester enormous amounts of carbon from the atmosphere and keep in line with targets set in the Climate Action Bill.
Stakeholder engagement: The designation and management of MPAs should be based on the best available scientific advice and informed by early and sustained engagement with stakeholders and communities. Communities must be empowered to be the custodians of our natural and maritime heritage. MPA’s primary objectives are to conserve biodiversity but they can also deliver broader cultural and socio-economic benefits.
More about Fair Seas:
Our Vision: To see Ireland, with a renewed appreciation of the ocean, become a world leader in marine protection, giving our species, habitats and coastal communities the opportunity to thrive.
Our Mission: To build a movement of ocean stewardship across Ireland that energises and empowers people, to campaign for ambitious and robust legislation, provide impartial scientific data and research, and secure a network of effective well-managed Marine Protected Areas.
Find us at www.fairseas.ie
For interview requests please use the email above or contact:
Aoife O’Mahony, Campaign Manager, Fair Seas, Aoife@fairseas.ie
Jack O’Donovan, Communications Officer, Fair Seas, Jack@fairseas.ie
About: Fair Seas is a network of individual environmental Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) campaigning together for Marine Protected Areas in Irish waters. Fair Seas partners include; Irish Wildlife Trust, BirdWatch Ireland, Coastwatch, Coomhola Salmon Trust, Friends of the Irish Environment, Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, SWAN and Irish Environmental Network.
The story of MPAs in Ireland so far:
Ireland has already agreed to protect our ocean under obligations made within the EU Habitats Directive, EU Birds Directive, EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD), the OSPAR Convention, the UN Convention on Biological Diversity and the UN Sustainable Development Goals. However, Ireland has only just over 2% of its waters protected, but none of these are managed effectively. So much so in fact that the European Commission has referred Ireland to the European Court of Justice for failing to introduce conservation measures for all its 423 SACs both in the sea and on land. Speaking at the Environment Ireland conference in January 2022, EU commission representative Aurel Ciobanu-Dordea said that “with less than 2.5 per cent of marine waters protected, this represents one of the poorest records across the Natura 2000 network in Europe.” In January 2021 the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage published their report of an expert advisory group titled ‘Expanding Irelands Marine Protected Area Network’ which outlined Irelands need for MPAs and how an effective network of MPAs might be designated and managed. The legislation for the designation and management of MPAs is currently being drafted and the Heads of Bill is expected in December 2022. This is the beginning of a long process to ensure effective stewardship, governance, management and enforcement of MPAs is put in place.