Bill to provide for designation and management of marine protected areas

Bill to provide for designation and management of marine protected areas

Ministers have approved plans to legislate for the designation and management of marine protected areas (MPAs) in Ireland’s maritime territory.

Work will now begin on the development of a general scheme of a bill to provide for the identification, designation, regulation, management, enforcement and review of MPAs, ensuring that they form a coherent, connected, representative and climate-resilient network.

The legislation will make key provisions for public and stakeholder participation and engagement in relation to the MPA process.

It will also make provisions for implementation and enforcement structures and will be designed to work in parallel with the Maritime Area Planning Act 2021 and existing legal protection measures under the Wildlife Acts and the EU Birds and Habitats Directives.

Darragh O’Brien, the minister for housing, local government and heritage, said: “As an island nation, our seas and our ocean are absolutely crucial for Ireland. They support our economy, inward and outward trade, our energy supply and communications systems, as well as our climate, our environment, our cultural traditions and heritage, our health and well-being.

“In order to ensure that our seas remain clean, healthy and productive, and our unique habitats and biodiversity are protected, we are committed to designating a network of up to 30 per cent of our maritime area as marine protected areas (MPAs) by 2030.”

Malcolm Noonan, minister of state with responsibility for heritage and electoral reform, said: “The development of this legislation is an important milestone as we work to progress Ireland’s network of marine protected areas.

“It will provide us with strong powers to help address the twin environmental crises of biodiversity loss and climate change by protecting and conserving the marine ecosystems that underpin the essential and multifaceted services that coastal communities and wider society depend on, such as fishing, tourism, cultural heritage, climate regulation and resilience to environmental change.

“In the context of energy security and the ramping up of Ireland’s offshore renewable energy ambitions, it’s all the more important that we work at pace to deliver on our commitment to meeting both biodiversity and climate objectives.”

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