On International Women’s Day, we want to celebrate the women driving change at Fair Seas that are working to shape Ireland’s blue future. Fair Seas is made up of many moving parts with women holding leading roles within our organisational structure. The scientists writing our report on where Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) should be located in Irish waters are a dynamic team of incredibly intelligent and ambitious women from across Ireland.
At Fair Seas we promise to continue to #BreakTheBias and celebrate and encourage women in science and research.
Fair Seas is building a movement of ocean stewardship across Ireland. Aoife O’Mahony, Fair Seas Campaign Manager says:
“Fair Seas aim is to see Ireland, with a renewed appreciation of the ocean, become a world leader in marine protection, giving our species, habitats and coastal communities the opportunity to thrive. This is the first time leading eNGO’s in Ireland have come together to work on a project of this scale. Now is the time for Ireland to step up and strive to protect 30% of our ocean by 2030.”
In recent online research, Fair Seas found that almost two-thirds of Irish adults have some emotional connection to the sea. It’s this emotional connection to nature that often draws us in and makes us more curious about the world around us. This was certainly the case for Fair Seas Scientist Regina Classen who says:
“Nature and the intricate web of interactions between species and habitats never fails to inspire me. Sadly, marine ecosystems are out of balance due to habitat loss, overfishing, pollution and climate change. Marine Protected Areas can address some of these pressures and allow life in our seas to recover. I am therefore proud to work on the Fair Seas campaign calling for at least 10% of Irish waters to be highly protected by 2025 – an important milestone to ensure recovery of ocean life.”
Out of the two-thirds of Irish adults that say they have an emotional connection to the sea, over half of them attribute their emotional connection to the calming and relaxing effect the sea has on them.
Sibéal Regan, Fair Seas Scientist says, “The ocean brings me solace; it is, for me like so many others, a safe space to express and feel my emotions. Although it heals, supports and restores us, sadly, we are hurting it. Decades of overconsumption, misuse and pollution are threatening our marine ecosystems and life on earth as we know it. I am grateful to be working with the Fair Sea’s campaign as I genuinely believe we can restore biodiversity and marine ecosystems by implementing effectively managed marine protected areas.”
Sibéal is now working to share her connection to the ocean with others. As she says in this recent interview, through her programme for transition year students she is trying to give advice to the next generation that was given to her.
Whilst almost two-thirds of Irish adults say they have some emotional connection with the sea only one-third say they know what a Marine Protected Area is, and even fewer, less than 1-in-ten say they are confident in knowing what an MPA is.
In a recent episode of Eco Eye Ellen MacMahon, Policy Officer at Sustainable Water Network (SWAN) talks to scientist and presenter Anja Murray about just what exactly an MPA is and what they might mean for Ireland.
MPAs are often created to protect a particular species or habitat, however at Fair Seas we are seeing that a more holistic approach to MPAs is needed that takes the broader inter-connected ecosystem and foodweb into account.
“The Fair Seas Campaign aims to identify Marine Protected Areas for the conservation of marine habitats, species populations. Preliminary analysis is showing us that a holistic approach is critical to safeguard their future against increasing pressures in the marine environment. Healthy oceans will benefit people and future generations and can be resilient if given the space. I am happy to be a part of a project that can make positive changes.” – Hannah Keogh, Fair Seas Scientist
For centuries our ocean has been experiencing severe pressures from industrial activities and pollution, which in more recent decades have become profound in previously unchartered waters. We need to act now to protect our ocean, Sarah Hegarty, Fair Seas Scientist says:
“One essential purpose of Marine Protected Areas for Ireland is to enact swift protection measures for marine life (and way of life) that is very much at risk. The profound worth of our marine ecosystems cannot be overstated and MPAs will provide immediate long-term gains for our island if implemented and managed successfully. I greatly value the role I play in being a voice for science and a campaigner for improved harmony with our natural environment.”
Currently, Ireland has a very poor network of MPAs covering less than 3% of our waters. In fact, the Irish government has missed its own target of protecting 10% by 2020. That is why Fair Seas is now working hard to provide outreach, education, data analysis and reporting to aid in local engagement and the decision-making process. Oonagh Duggan, Fair Seas Steering Committee Member/Head of Advocacy at Birdwatch Ireland says:
“I swim in the sea every morning before work and benefit so much from it. It sets me up for the day as an advocate for nature. The Fair Seas campaign is the first of its kind in Ireland to focus on building a movement for the protection of at least 30% of Irish marine waters by 2030 and BirdWatch Ireland is proud to be part of it. An ecologically robust network of marine protected areas is absolutely critical. Our oceans and seas give us so much but marine ecosystems are highly threatened and need our full support now. “
Karin Dubsky, Coastwatch coordinator and Steering Committee Member highlights the importance of our ocean in tackling our climate and biodiversity emergencies; “Given the climate and biodiversity emergency and immediate threats to our most biodiverse blue carbon marine habitats, some wider protection actions are planned to dovetail with the larger Fair Seas campaign. That includes the Coastwatch led campaign to protect seagrass wherever it occurs.”
“Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow”, is this year’s theme for International Women’s Day at the International Science Council. At Fair Seas, we champion the leading role of women scientists in shaping a healthy future for our ocean.
Happy International Women’s Day to all the women out there working for a better, healthier, safer and more sustainable tomorrow for all.
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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