Republic of Ireland Protected Areas

Cliffs of Moher Courtesy of Carsten Clasohm
Grantee Irish Environmental Network
Grant Amount €700,000.00
Duration Three Years

The vast majority of protected sites in Ireland are small to medium Natura 2000 designations within 12 nautical miles of the coast. Ireland’s offshore protected areas are by way of Special Areas of Conservation (SACs under the EU Habitats Directive) and are moderately sized rocky reef habitat. There are significant gaps in the existing network, which includes only one small no-take marine reserve. In addition, the Natura 2000 sites (Birds and Habitats Directives) are feature-based and as such allow a degree of extraction and disturbance. Because of this, they are only considered category four protection under the IUCN MPA classification. Within the current network of sites, there are very few site management plans and those that do exist are totally inadequate as they fail to address important pressures on the sites such as commercial fishing. The few sites that have identified fisheries management measures have been found to be ineffective due to a lack of implementation and/or enforcement. The absence of a legal instrument to designate sites outside of the Natura network is aggravating the situation further.

Ireland is party to the Convention on Biodiversity (UN CBD) and so committed to realising 10 percent MPA coverage of its waters by 2020 (Aichi target 11). Ireland reiterated this commitment to implement a coherent network of MPAs through several instruments, e.g. Sustainable Development Goal 14.5; the OSPAR Convention; and the EU’s Marine Strategy Framework Directive. Having now committed to protecting 30 percent of its waters, Ireland has a lot of protection to do. The recently published expert report details how to expand the MPA network. While the report makes welcome recommendations, the realisation of these, the level of ambition and timescales for doing so will be determined by the government and the degree of consensus amongst key stakeholders. This is the space in which our campaign will operate and win.