News & Events

Expanding Ireland’s Marine Protected Area Network

Published: Thursday, 22 October, 2020

Expanding Ireland’s Marine Protected Area Network, the final report by the Marine Protected Area Advisory Group, which is chaired by UCD Earth Institute Director Professor Tasman Crowe, has been received today by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage.

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are areas of seas, oceans or estuaries that restrict human activity for a conservation purpose, typically to protect natural or cultural resources. The report is aimed at assisting the Government in meeting its target of having 10% of Ireland’s maritime area as Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) as soon as is practicable, aiming for 30% by 2030. 


Above: Professor Tasman Crowe, chair of the Marine Protected Area Advisory Group and director of the UCD Earth Institute

Left: The Marine Protected Area Advisory Group Report, published today

The Marine Protected Area Advisory Group, chaired by Professor Tasman Crowe, published the report earlier today (22 October). The report advises on the need to widen Ireland’s MPA network, the benefits and costs of the expansion, and recommends how Ireland should proceed. It was sent to Minister Darragh O’Brien T.D., Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, and Minister of State Malcolm Noonan T.D. The Minister and the Department will now consider the report which will then be published as the part of extensive public consultation on Marine Protected Areas in Ireland. This will begin in late 2020 or early 2021.

The advisory group consists of twenty experts with backgrounds in life and ocean sciences, marine socio-economics, maritime culture, governance, and legislation. Dr Becky Giesler, an associate member of the Earth Institute, was the researcher in the preparation of this report and UCD Associate Professor Geertje Schuitema contributed as a co-author. In the report, the group provided significant technical advice and recommendations on the processes required and the challenges to be addressed in the future expansion of Ireland’s network of MPAs.

One of the substantial findings from the report is that currently many threatened marine habitats, species and ecosystems cannot be provided with the protection required to meet Ireland’s international commitments and legal obligations. The report also identifies the possibility to improve the level of stakeholder engagement and participation in the site selection and management process.

Tasman Crowe, Chair of the MPA Advisory Group commented:

“Myself and the members of the advisory group were delighted and privileged to be part of the process to develop the best possible advice for the expansion of Ireland’s network of MPAs in the future. Our aim was to provide a comprehensive and balanced synthesis of current thinking and relevant evidence. We were particularly encouraged and inspired by the myriad of views and opinions shared with us by the wide range of stakeholder groups and organisations with whom we engaged during the process. We are grateful that so many individuals and groups contributed in a real way to the development of the report. Their views really brought home to us the value of this process and what it could achieve.”

Upon receiving the report, Minister O’Brien declared:

“Never before have we, as a nation, faced the twin global crises of climate change and accelerating biodiversity loss on land and at sea. This comprehensive report represents a Call for Collective Action on behalf of our people and our natural marine environment, to ensure that we can sustain clean, healthy, diverse and productive oceans and seas around Ireland, both now and in the future. Minister Noonan and I sincerely thank Professor Crowe and his colleagues for providing this valuable and timely report today.

The expansion of our network of MPAs is of great importance to us all here in Ireland, not least because the sea is in our blood and supports so many livelihoods and communities, but also because it unlocks future solutions to serious challenges that we face. Not only can MPAs provide us with answers to the challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss, they also hold a key to our future - as a maritime nation that’s home to a bountiful and sustainable source of food, green energy and tourism activity for example. In this context, later this year we will be welcoming the views of the public and all stakeholders on this report and the process that lies before us.’

Expanding Ireland’s Marine Protected Area Network will assist the Irish government in achieving its target of protecting 10% of Ireland’s maritime area, and increasing this amount to 30% by the year 2030. Public consultation on the report will begin later this year.