Proposed Irish MPA drawing criticism from fishing industry, environmental groups, and marine biologists

Marine ecologists have questioned the value of a newly proposed Irish marine protected area (MPA), and environmental groups have warned that there needs to be effective engagement with the fishing industry for the zone to be successful.

While welcoming the proposed MPA – covering more than 305,000 hectares of marine waters off Wexford on Ireland’s east coast – in principle, Irish NGO coalition Fair Seas has called for management plans and a long-promised MPA bill in parliament that would detail how protections on the water would be enforced.

Dublin-based Fair Seas went on to offer a caveat: Proper consultation with local fishers, communities, and other stakeholders is vital to ensure the success of any MPA.

Fair Seas Campaign Coordinator Donal Griffin casted some skepticism on whether that consultation was guaranteed, pointing toward the fact that Ireland scored lowest among 10 E.U. countries ranked by the E.U. Commission on planning, implementation, site management, monitoring, and conservation outcomes as it relates to protected areas.

“We need proper management, monitoring, and enforcement for these areas to truly protect nature,” he said.

Oceana Campaign Director for Marine Protection Nicolas Fournier echoed that skepticism, stating that the country’s “ambitions are not up to the job, especially considering the triple crisis we face: biodiversity, climate, and pollution.”

“Until 2023, Ireland was at the bottom of the ranking of E.U. countries for marine protected areas, and only thanks to new MPAs last year, it went from 2 percent to about 8 percent of its waters designated as MPAs,” Fournier said. “So, not only did Ireland fail to meet the previous international U.N. target of 10 percent by 2020, but it will require immense and resolute efforts to meet the new 30 percent target by 2030 as endorsed by the government.”

Other E.U. nations that are well ahead of the Irish in marine protection, noted Fournier, include the Netherlands, which has 20 percent of its waters designated as MPAs; Lithuania and Spain with similar figures; and Belgium, France, and Germany all designating some 30 percent of their seas as MPAs.

“Some E.U. countries like Italy, Croatia, or Malta are in the same position as Ireland, as they fall short of their MPA targets and have been dragging their feet in designating new protected areas,” Fournier said.

Besides poor governmental planning, Jonny Hughes, a marine biologist at Blue Foundation, said pressure from the industrial fishing industry across Europe is one of the biggest barriers to the establishment of effective MPAs. The fishery lobby, he told SeafoodSource, asserts “pressure on

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