Minister Darragh O’Brien T.D., Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage and Minister of State Malcolm Noonan T.D. today announced the commencement of a formal consultation process on the future expansion of Ireland’s network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).
The process of consultation with all stakeholders and the public is beginning with a series of interactive stakeholder engagements hosted by the independent expert Advisory Group appointed in December 2019 and chaired by Professor Tasman Crowe of the UCD Earth Institute.
Minister O’Brien stated that:
“Minister Noonan and I very much welcome this process of stakeholder engagement which is being supported and facilitated by our Department. This represents the first stage of a broader, comprehensive consultation process on Marine Protected Areas which will continue in the coming months and which we committed to get under way in the first 100 days of Government.”
Minister Noonan added that:
“Marine Protected Areas provide added protection for vulnerable or endangered species, habitats and ecosystems, and help to nurture and maintain biodiversity in our oceans and seas. The future expansion of Ireland’s MPA network could also help us to combat the negative effects of climate change. It should therefore be targeted and underpinned by the best scientific evidence and advice, in order to deliver the best outcome.”
Chair of the MPA Advisory Group, Professor Crowe, stated that:
“Effective stakeholder engagement is essential to the development of a successful and durable network of Marine Protected Areas. We recognise that there is a great diversity of views and experience among stakeholders, and are delighted to be embarking on this new phase of dialogue to help us develop the best possible advice for the expansion of Ireland’s network of MPAs.”
This liaison and discussion with representative bodies and organisations, seeking for example their views, ideas and perspectives, will take place through an online questionnaire and a series of moderated online meetings. All of this 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.
As the second stage of the broader consultation process, Minister O’Brien and Minister of State Noonan intend to publish the final report of the Advisory Group upon its receipt, and to invite comments and views from the public on the future expansion of Ireland’s MPA network.
“As an island nation, our seas are intrinsic to our environment, our culture and our economy. It is imperative that we do our utmost to keep them clean, healthy and productive,” said Minister O’Brien.
Minister of State Noonan added:
“The marine environment is vital to our planet. It is no exaggeration to state that the collapse of marine ecosystems would represent an existential threat to our way of life and our well-being. With this in view, it is our stated intention to expand Ireland’s network of Marine Protected Areas to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goal target of 10% of our maritime area as soon as possible, and we aim to expand beyond this to 30% by 2030.”
The MPA Advisory Group’s stakeholder engagement process commences on 18 August and will conclude on 18 September 2020.