Last month Fair Seas carried out an online survey to learn about the connection that people in Ireland have to the sea. Over 1000 people over the age of eighteen were surveyed and there was an evenly weighted distribution of age, gender and location to give a nationally representative sample.
The vast majority of people in Ireland claim to have a personal connection with the sea. Almost two-thirds say they have some emotional connection with the sea, while 70% have some kind of functional relationship (e.g. they go walking by the sea or live by the sea).
Across Ireland, there seems to be modest familiarity with Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), with one third saying they know what an MPA is. However, less than one-in-ten seem confident in knowing what they are.
Three quarters understand the importance of healthy and protected seas in reducing climate change.
Encouragingly there are very high levels of support for greater protection of our seas. 78% of people say they would support greater legal protections for the sea and 78% would also support a campaign for greater marine protection, like Fair Seas.
Coastal areas are more likely to have a personal connection with the sea, although, overall, the connection with the sea is relatively high across most demographic groups, after all, we are an island.
COVID-19 and the various lockdowns gave many people living in coastal areas the opportunity to reconnect with the sea. Just under 3 in 10 people reported developing a stronger connection to the sea during this time. Interestingly 18-34-year-olds are the most likely to report having developed a stronger connection with the sea since the start of the pandemic.
Today the report on the 2021 government consultation entitled “Expanding Ireland’s Marine Protected Area Network” was released and highlights the calls for “urgent action”. 2,311 submissions were received and an incredible 99% of submissions supported MPAs. It is identified in the report that MPAs are needed to “conserve and protect marine habitats and ecosystems”, that they are “large enough to provide adequate protection” and that ”meaningful public and stakeholder engagement and involvement are key to MPA delivery”.
Our ocean needs our help now more than ever. On our Island nation, we are all connected to the ocean in one way or another or at least understand the important role the ocean plays.
By 2030 we need to see at least 30% of our waters fully protected. Our recent research and the responses to the government consultation clearly show that the people of Ireland are calling for Marine Protected Areas.
In summer 2022 the scientists at Fair Seas will publish our first report on where MPAs should be located in Irish waters. Once they are identified we will be calling on the government to engage with the scientific information and the ocean stakeholders across Ireland to bring in a network of effective and well managed MPAs.
We also welcome you to join us in Cork on 8th June, where we are hosting our inaugural World Ocean Day conference. We are bringing ocean advocates, government, industry and key stakeholders together to map out the next steps for Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in Irish waters.
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