It’s impossible to overstate the biodiversity crisis in Irish habitats – but ocean life can be saved
If anyone thinks the biodiversity crisis engulfing Ireland’s wildlife and natural habitats is overblown, a cursory glance at the country’s Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) will tell you we’re not taking it. seriously enough.
With a European average of around 10% MPAs, or 625,000 km², Ireland manages a meager 2.1%, an appalling failure given the rich and varied fauna and species that inhabit our coasts, they are permanent or temporary.
A new report from a coalition of Irish environmental and marine organizations highlights glaring shortcomings in our protection of our coasts and vast stretches of water beyond the coastline.
Fair Seas says up to 36% of coastal areas and stretches of offshore waters could be designated as MPAs, but that at the very least Ireland should meet the EU’s biodiversity ambitions of 30 %.
Either way, just 2% is paltry, especially as a government-sponsored two-day event on biodiversity is taking place this week in Dublin Castle and World ocean took place.
If you wanted to add land to the collective failure, you could point to the fact that the European Commission has already taken Ireland to task.
Under the Habitats Directive, EU member states must designate Special Areas of Conservation (SACs), with specific conservation objectives. Ireland failed to do so within five years, leading the Commission to take action in 2020.
Some 154 out of 423 areas have not been designated SACs, although the relevant deadline expired in December 2014, the Commission said.
That’s another story, though intrinsically linked to how we deal with the biodiversity crisis. For now, let’s stay on the water.
In the Revitalizing Our Seas report, Fair Seas highlights how we have already altered the natural order forever with centuries of human practices. It makes sober, yet crucial reading, offering hope and a way out of trouble.
“We don’t know what Ireland’s marine biodiversity would be like. Centuries of hunting and fishing have repeatedly wiped out top predators and larger animals and thus altered food webs and ecosystems. However, little marine species have gone extinct around the world, so by having refuges from these effects, biodiversity can self-restore,” he said.
As the report’s executive summary highlights, the Irish government has supported the EU Biodiversity Strategy’s target to protect at least 30% of Ireland’s maritime area by 2030.
With the blatant figure of 2.1%, it’s hard to imagine how we’re catching up. However, the report describes how we could take steps not only to reach the 30%, but also to exceed it by an additional 6% through imaginative and bold decision-making.
“Commitments made under the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the Convention on Biological Diversity, as well as several national and European legal obligations, oblige Ireland to protect and restore marine biodiversity.
“In this report, Fair Seas presents 16 areas of interest for MPA designation in Irish waters. The network of areas of interest for MPA designation covers just under 36% of the Irish sea area. “Ireland. An Area of Interest is defined as a key biodiversity hotspot for one or more species of conservation interest,” he said.
These areas include Galway Bay and the Islands from Kenmare to Loop Head, the Celtic Sea off the coast of Cork to the English South West and large areas from Donegal to Louth.
Why are MPAs needed? Fair Seas explains why.
“MPAs, if managed effectively, restore ocean life. This restoration is necessary because biodiversity has declined significantly over the past few decades due to human impacts such as overexploitation, habitat loss, pollution and climate change.
“Conserving and restoring biodiversity is vital to human society because we depend on a healthy environment and the ecosystem services it provides, including carbon sequestration, food supply, storm protection, pollution control and recreation. Nature also has intrinsic value and must be protected and restored regardless of its value to us.”
Basically, the people want the government to act.
“People want MPAs: Of 2,311 responses to the public consultation on the government’s MPA Advisory Group report (2020), 99% supported MPAs. Respondents also showed strong support for the goal of the Irish government by 30% by 2030,” the Fair Seas report said. .
Fair Seas campaign manager Aoife O’Mahony said the report was meant to start the conversation between stakeholders and policy makers nationwide.
“It aims to significantly accelerate the process of building an effective network of MPAs in Irish waters that would enable Ireland to meet its 2030 commitments with the best possible results for nature, climate and people. We have used scientific research and available data to identify 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 prosper.”