National Marine Plan fails to address the climate and biodiversity emergency

30th April 2020
Press Release

An Taisce has made a submission to the public consultation on the Draft National Marine Planning Framework published by the Department of Housing Planning and Local Government. There is an EU legal obligation, under the Maritime Spatial Planning Directive, for Governments to prepare a marine plan, which considers economic, social and environmental aspects to support sustainable development and growth in the maritime sector. The Marine Strategy Framework Directive is the environmental pillar of maritime policy, and aims to achieve Good Environment Status for marine areas, including the establishment of Marine Protected Areas, which are areas of the ocean set aside specifically for conservation.

90% of Ireland’s territory is in the marine area, and along with our EU legal obligations to establish marine protected areas, Ireland has committed to conserving 10% of its marine area by 2020 under the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. However, legislation for the designation of marine protected areas has not even been tabled, and no timetable for this is provided in the draft marine plan. In its submission An Taisce has questioned how the draft marine planning framework can meet the objectives of the EU environmental directives and the UN SDGs without first knowing which marine areas need strict protection.

Moreover, the draft marine planning framework does not constitute what can be meaningfully described as a plan because it does not set out any new overarching strategic policies for the marine area. Instead, it is a miscellany of existing sectoral plans and policies, many of which are out-of-date and even contradictory in their aims. For instance, the draft document largely defers to the 2012 strategy, “Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth,” which is based on an extractive and exploitative view of the marine ecosystem and was not subject to the necessary environmental assessments. By relying on a range of existing plans, many of which are incompatible with biodiversity and climate action, the draft marine planning framework is unable to provide the targeted and timelined objectives needed to meet the requirements of the EU environmental directives, SDGs and other national legislation.

The draft marine planning framework in its current form is simply a business-as-usual approach, one which facilitates continued overfishing, ecologically damaging aquaculture, continued oil and gas exploration, and port expansion based on the continued growth of unsustainable imports such as animal feed, oil, cars and fertiliser. In failing to fully integrate and prioritise biodiversity and climate concerns it is failing to chart a sustainable way forward.

In responding to the draft marine planning framework, An Taisce has set out a range of positive recommendations that promote taking an ecosystems approach, for truly integrated management of land, water and living resources that promotes sustainable use in an equitable way. This includes the need to delineate quantifiable and timetabled targets for all plan objectives; to require robust ecological assessments for all marine activities using the best scientific tools and data available; and to ensure that monitoring actions are specific, assessable and effective.

Quotes

Ian Lumley, Head of Advocacy with An Taisce:

“This is a business as usual strategy of overfishing, ecologically damaging aquaculture, oil and gas drilling and continued port development for unsustainable imported commodities which is no longer tenable in light of the climate and biodiversity emergency.”

Dr. Elaine McGoff, Natural Environment Officer with An Taisce:”

“They are putting the cart before the horse, facilitating the development of various industries without first establishing which areas are the most sensitive for nature. The first step should be establishing what areas should not be opened up for development, it’s hard to understand the logic of doing anything else.”

“Our oceans are in trouble, our fish stocks are collapsing, sea birds are starving, oceans are warming and acidifying, but this plan does not meaningfully address this. Biodiversity and climate concerns should be front and centre, and in failing to do this we are pulling the rug out from underneath our own feet, and ultimately everyone will lose out. Dead seas don’t benefit anyone.”

Phoebe Duvall, Planning and Environmental Policy Officer with An Taisce:

“The draft marine planning framework is hamstrung by its piecemeal nature. By leaning so heavily on a hodgepodge of existing policies rather than proposing a robust, targeted strategy of its own, it's failing to create a cohesive and harmonised plan for our marine area, something that is absolutely essential for the health of the oceans and our society.”

/ENDS

Contact: Ian Lumley, Head of Advocacy, 083 153 2384