Attended a stakeholder forum in Dublin (23/03/23) under the banner of Sea Angling Ireland.
This was a continuation of the process that began with video consultations in 2020 culminating with the publishing of the report on Marine Protected Areas: https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/135a8 ... a-network/
Forum on: Ecological Sensitivity Analysis to inform Potential MPA in the Irish Sea.
The forum was to:
1) To inform you, as a key stakeholder identified by the Advisory Group, about the work that is under way including its scope, objectives, methods and progress;
2) To hear your views in relation to this Irish Sea project and any suggestions, concerns or other comments you would like to make;
3) To do so in an open and engaging manner, stimulating discussion with and among as many stakeholders as possible within the project’s commitments and timescale.
Ecological Sensitivity Analysis - to identify potential MPAs in the Irish Sea - There is a current project ongoing by which all sorts of data is fed into a modelling system and this modelling system will allow data to be represented graphically which in turn will identify areas of potential interest for MPA’s. Safe to say that his is an incredibly involved process that I am really simplifying it here.
This is NOT a process of MPA selection. It will inform MPA selection that will be undertaken under the new legislation, properly applying the processes that will be established in law.
I outlined the wishes of anglers – That anglers are in a situation where angling is declining in terms of catch in both average size, numbers and species. That the only species doing well are species that have protection (I was not giving an opinion as to why). Anglers would like MPAs to provide the vehicle to improve the situation. In relation to the Irish Sea I spoke about the past glories of places like Greystones. The plaice fishing etc. The fishing on the offshore banks and compared this to the current situation.
Anglers would have a fear of being excluded from areas due to the designation of an MPA with stringent protection. (There are many different types of MPA).
That anglers voices will not be heard when it gets closer to actually designating areas as pressure/lobby groups get into swing and have louder voices….
That there would be pressure from EU etc. and that MPA’s would be rushed in without due consideration/consultation.
I summarised the Recreational Sea Angling sector as being a valuable one. Not just angling alone but its part in the tourism sector making a large contribution to the economy but also to the contribution to the overall wellbeing of participants and suchlike. I also pointed out how we are guardians of our environment as we represent “boots on the ground” and somewhat the “canary in the coalmine” as to when there are problems in the marine environment.
In the context of the forum, Inshore Fishermen have concerns about offshore windfarms, MPA’s and anything that might exclude them from their fishing grounds. They worry about lack of VMS data to prove their case.
This is an ongoing process. I don’t know how long it will all take but things are starting to move faster than before.
General Scheme of the Marine Protected Areas Bill 2023 is starting to pass through the Oireachtas