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Matthews meets environmental NGOs to discuss Maritime Planning issues and Marine Protected Areas

Date: 6 October 2021

Green Party TD Steven Matthews has met in Wicklow with a group of national environmental NGOs to discuss Maritime Planning issues and progress on Marine Protected Areas.

Speaking after the meeting Deputy Matthews said “I met with Birdwatch Ireland, the Irish Wildlife Trust, the Irish Environmental Network and SWAN the Sustainable Water Network at our beautiful East Coast Nature Reserve in Newcastle to hear their expert opinions and concerns for our marine environment and ecology. These groups have huge knowledge and experience and played a significant role in assisting the Joint Oireachtas committee, which I chair, in examining the Maritime Area Planning Bill. They have concerns, which I share with them, on the lack of Marine Protected Areas in Ireland and the decades of neglect of our marine environment. Currently Ireland has less than 2.5% of our marine area protected but in our Programme for Government we secured a commitment to designating 30% of our seas as protected. It is not a simple task as there is still no real definition of a marine protected area and what activities may be permitted or restricted and the monitoring of marine environments is more difficult than on shore.

“The meeting was very timely as on the same day my Green Party colleague Minister Malcolm Noonan was representing Ireland at the international OSPAR Commission where agreement was reached on a major Marine Protected Area. With a large-scale public consultation recently concluded, Minister Noonan and his officials are now preparing the legislative process for Ireland to deliver on the commitment to 30% Marine Protected Area.

“The Maritime Area Planning Bill will provide the process for large scale offshore renewable potential to deliver clean, green energy resilience for our island, decarbonising our economy, creating thousands of jobs as we electrify transport and heating and providing a local and long term economic boost for Wicklow and Arklow ports as hubs for renewable energy. However, these developments must be held to the strictest environmental standards throughout every aspect of their life cycle from build, operate, maintain and repowering and be required to submit comprehensive environmental reports with their planning applications.

“Healthy seas provide for tourism, fishers, recreation, coastal communities and play a vital role in carbon sequestration. Therefore we must ensure that maritime planning doesn’t just protect what we have, it must also be tasked with helping to restore what we have lost through decades of neglectful practises and pollution and with providing us with marine environmental data that we have never before had the resources to adequately collect. It is a priority for me to see maritime planning and marine protection aligned by delivering legislation which provides for both.”



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