Activists call for MPAs to be enshrined in law
May 17, 2021
Extinction Rebellion Ireland is calling on the government to enshrine marine protected areas (MPAs) into Irish law through a recently launched initiative.
Their #SeaChange campaign encourages people to pressure the government to expand and protect MPAs by creating handcrafted works of art with written calls for their legal recognition.
They also insist that these areas must have strict no-take zones, in which no mining activity is allowed, in order to ensure marine restoration.
The campaign was launched to draw attention to Ireland’s continued inability to manage and protect biodiversity.
Talk to The Green News, Natasha Ariff of Extinction Rebellion, recounted Ireland’s poor record and said that even the protection offered in Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) falls flat.
SACs are designated for protection under the EU Habitats Directive, which Ireland is legally required to comply with.
These areas are “not really well managed,” according to Ms Ariff, so Extinction Rebellion is calling for strict no-take zones as a restorative marine solution.
The group is also very critical of industrial fishing practices such as pair trawling, bottom trawling and entangled nets with immediate effect.
These practices create considerable damage to the seabed and have led to the collapse of many common fish populations in Irish waters.
The overall aim of the campaign is to speed up the process of defining MPAs in Irish law, but for this to be successful, campaigners believe there needs to be an open consultation process and ongoing conversation with coastal communities and communities. small fishermen.
Ireland’s marine biodiversity record
In 2010, Ireland committed to granting MPA status to 10% of its seas by 2020, and then increasing that figure to 30% by 2030.
However, Ireland remained well below last year’s target, with Irish MPA coverage currently at around 2.4%, one of the lowest in the world.
Under the OSPAR Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic, Ireland committed to creating MPAs to protect biodiversity when it was signed in 1992.
But no legislation currently exists in Ireland to legally underpin protected areas established to fulfill these commitments.
On May 11, maritime expert witnesses appeared before the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Climate Action (JOCCA) and warned that not only did the legislation designate areas as MPAs in two years, but also that the deployment of MPAs in Ireland was a decade late.
Under the chapters of the draft law on planning and development of the marine environment, MPAs remain conspicuously absent.
However, the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Housing, Local Communities and Heritage recommended specifically designating and creating provisional protected areas following the pre-legislative review of the bill.
Talk to Green news, Regina Classen, Project Officer with the Irish Wildlife Trust, said that “the comparison of Ireland [MPAs] to other countries is a little different because other countries are also not doing very well.
They might have 20%, 30% or 40% protection, but the actual handling isn’t great. ”
Ms Classen noted that the lack of MPA designation is a problem at all levels in the EU, but stressed that ‘Ireland in particular has been fairly systematically ignorant and is really trying to find loopholes and ways to continue to damage activities.
She also pointed out that in the face of rapidly declining habitats and species, Ireland relies on well-managed MPAs for any type of recovery.
“Biodiversity loss is widespread at sea, as it is on land,” she said.
By Shauna Burdis