Marine Protected Areas
Ireland has an extensive marine environment, provides a wide range of ecosystem services which regulate climate and support fisheries, aquaculture, recreation, tourism and biotechnology.
Ireland has an extensive marine environment, provides a wide range of ecosystem services which regulate climate and support fisheries, aquaculture, recreation, tourism and biotechnology. Area-based protection through the use of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and related tools is one of a range of complementary approaches to maintain, conserve and restore marine ecosystems. Although definition of an MPA is yet to be defined they can be thought of as marine areas that are managed over the long term, with a primary objective of conserving habitats and/or species and other natural features.
Conservation and sustainable management of the marine environment are mandated by a number of international agreements and legal obligations. Those which include specific requirements for area-based protection include the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD), the OSPAR Convention, the UN Convention on Biological Diversity and the UN Sustainable Development Goals. A degree of area-based protection is already in place in Ireland, primarily through the Natura 2000 network of sites established under the EU Birds and Habitats Directives.
A significant majority of Irish Aquaculture sites already operate within or adjacent to existing Natura 2000 sites, and have complied in recent years with Appropriate Assessment and EIS/EIAR requirements. Aquaculture sector complies with obligations outlined in a number of environmental laws such as; Habitats Directive 92/43/EEC, Birds Directive 2009/147/EC, Water Framework Directive 2000/60/EC, Consolidated Environmental Impact Assessment Directive 2014/52/EU; and under the current aquaculture licensing system, the aquaculture sector is required to comply with more environmental legislation than any other sector in the marine space, thereby ensuring the healthy and sustainable use of Ireland’s seas.
There is need for existing Natura 2000 sites and existing legally-protected marine sites to be reviewed & assessed as to their effectiveness in protecting the species/habitats they were established to protect as well as whether management measures have been appropriate for stakeholders. Further the inclusion of such sites (existing Natura 2000 sites and existing legally-protected marine sites) should be assessed following such a review to establish the legitimacy of their inclusion in the MPA process.
Aquaculture needs a viable marine environment in which to operate, as an industry that works with nature in order to produce high quality food produce, we are fully cognisant of our obligations in relation to conservation objectives.
In October 2020, the Marine Protected Area (MPA) Advisory Group, which was established in December 2019 by the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, published a report – Expanding Ireland’s Marine Protected Area Network.
The first phase of public consultation took place in July 2021 – IFA Aquaculture’s submission can be found here.
The process of designating Marine Protected Areas, engaging stakeholders in the marine space and continued discussion on the topic will continue over the coming years with further public consultation to follow.