In a new report, Fair Seas, a coalition of Ireland’s leading environmental non-governmental organisations and networks such as the Irish Wildlife Trust and BirdWatch Ireland amongst others, is urging the Government to designate a minimum of 30% of Irish waters as Marine Protected Areas by 2030, up from the current figure of 2%. Recent assessments indicate that two-thirds of Ireland’s coastal habitats are in an unfavourable condition, with an alarming decline of 90% in numbers of iconic species such as porbeagle and angel sharks noted.
The report shows how it would be possible to protect 36% of Ireland’s ocean territory enabling the country to meet its 2030 European targets. This would help to protect, conserve and restore vulnerable and important species and habitats, as well as ensuring that these habitats can act as huge natural carbon stores.
It identifies 16 ‘Areas of Interest’ for MPA designation in Irish waters including eight coastal areas stretching along the coast of the Republic of Ireland from Donegal to Louth. These places are home to critically endangered sharks, globally important seabird colonies, and animals threatened with extinction which rely on these areas for breeding and feeding such as Atlantic puffins and blue whales.
Fair Seas Campaign Manager Aoife O’Mahony said: “This report is about kick-starting the conversation among stakeholders and decision makers nationwide. It aims to significantly ramp up the process of building an effective network of Marine Protected Areas in Irish waters which would enable Ireland to meet its 2030 commitments with the best possible outcomes for nature, climate and people.”
“We’ve used scientific research and available data to identify the potential areas most in need of protection. Our ambition is to see Ireland become a world leader in marine protection, giving our species, habitats and coastal communities the opportunity to thrive,” she continued.
“Ireland is a laggard when it comes to protecting and restoring nature on land and sea. We have been endowed with a wealth of marine life but are squandering it. Our extensive coastline supports hundreds and thousands of breeding seabirds but species like the Puffin and Kittiwake are now globally vulnerable. Irish Kittiwake populations declined by 32% between 2002-2018. While seabirds have some protection on land where they breed, there’s no protection for them at sea where they forage for food. Ireland’s sea territory is huge, it’s high time to protect and restore large areas for these and other marine life,” explained Oonagh Duggan, head of advocacy at BirdWatch Ireland.
To highlight the new report on Irish MPAs, Fair Seas also released a new video called ‘A Letter from the Sea’. It is narrated by Irish environmental scientist Dr. Tara Shine from Change by Degrees and emphasises the importance of protecting the oceans to give species, habitats and coastal communities the opportunity to thrive.
‘A Letter from the Sea’ can be viewed here.
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Photography courtesy of Unsplash.