Public consultation on MPAs reveals vast majority of respondents support expansion
A “vast majority” of respondents to a public consultation on marine protected areas (MPAs) support the government’s plans to expand the network, according to an independent review.
Some 93% of respondents also support the inclusion of existing conservation sites in the national network of MPAs, the review by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage found.
The plan for the government aims to increase MPAs from around 2% to 30% of Irish waters by 2030, and most respondents felt the current level was insufficient.
Some 91% support the “key principles of the ongoing MPA process”, the department said.
He said respondents noted gaps in information and data as well as deficits in marine protection education.
The need for “meaningful, early and timely engagement with stakeholders, particularly the fishing industry, was seen as critical to the MPA expansion process,” the department said.
“Respondents said that the role of stakeholders and the general public is critical to the successful implementation and management of MPAs, and that coastal and island communities and businesses need to be supported throughout the process. creation and implementation of any MPA,” he said.
“Respondents called for urgent action, based on evidence, and increased research and resources, to protect our marine life and the economic and societal benefits that come from a marine environment. diverse and productive,” he said.
A total of 2,311 public consultation responses were received by the ministry, it said.
The highest percentage of responses to the consultation’s online survey portal came from the environment sector, followed by education, health and fisheries, he said.
“A very wide range of representative bodies, organizations and businesses also submitted contributions to the consultation,” he noted.
He said he had begun to develop “stand-alone legislation” to enable the identification, designation and management of MPAs to meet Ireland’s national and international commitments.
Currently, there is no definition of an MPA in Irish law, and environmental protections under wildlife laws only apply to the foreshore.
MPAs are geographically defined marine areas with certain protections for conservation purposes. In addition to conserving marine species and habitats, MPAs can support maritime economic activity and reduce the effects of climate change and ocean acidification.
“Many valuable views and perspectives, spanning all stakeholders and the general public, have been brought to light through this public consultation,” said Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien.
“The strong support for the MPA process, expressed through these submissions, is a positive indication that stakeholders and the general public have a keen interest in a clean, healthy, diverse and productive marine environment,” he said. .
“I thank everyone who submitted a submission for their time, ideas and substantial input. This is an urgent matter and my department is making progress in protecting our maritime space,” he said.
O’Brien noted that the Maritime Zone Planning Bill, which he described as “the biggest reform of maritime governance since the founding of the state”, was signed into law in December .
“We are also making progress in setting up the Maritime Area Regulatory Authority (MARA) as a matter of urgency,” he said.
Environmentalists have criticized the prioritization of legislation on maritime area planning, mainly for offshore renewables, as opposed to the timing of legislation for MPAs.
The full report on public consultation submissions on Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) can be found here