A coalition of Ireland’s leading environmental non-governmental organisations and networks says progress is beginning to be made towards protecting some of the most vulnerable ecosystems within Irish waters. Fair Seas has welcomed a decision by the European Commission to close parts of the Northeast Atlantic to bottom fishing but says more action is needed.

The move will see deep sea fishing using gear such as trawls, gillnets and bottom longlines, banned in 87 sensitive zones. The area amounts to 16,000 km2 of EU waters, of which nearly 9,000 km2 are within the Irish Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

Fair Seas published a report in June identifying 16 ‘Areas of Interest’ for Marine Protected Area (MPA) designation in Irish waters. The new closures line up almost perfectly with the areas identified by Fair Seas.

The new ban on bottom fishing will apply to 1.8% of Irish waters. Fair Seas is urging the Government to designate a minimum of 30% of Irish waters as Marine Protected Areas by 2030, up from the current figure of 2% which the group says is wholly inadequate. Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are areas of our seas and coasts legally protected from activities that damage the habitats, wildlife and natural processes.

Aoife O’ Mahony, Campaign Manager for Fair Seas highlighted the need for legislation to be implemented in Ireland, she said, “The Irish government has committed to protect 30% of our waters before 2030. We need to ensure that MPA legislation is ambitious and timely to conserve, restore and protect our ocean. Our ocean territory is home to endangered sharks, globally important seabird colonies, and animals threatened with extinction. It is vital that we act now to restore critical habitats, safeguard wildlife and help address the climate crisis. The time for action is now.”

Regina Classen, Marine Policy and Research Officer with the Irish Wildlife Trust said, “This is incredible news for Ireland. We have sensitive ecosystems in the deep waters off the Irish coast. These areas are home to cold water coral reefs, deep sea sponge reefs and sea-pen fields which are easily damaged by bottom-contacting fishing gear. Not only are we now protecting fragile deep sea reefs from bottom trawling, but even a part of the Porcupine Bank, which is heavily trawled for Dublin Bay Prawn, is now protected due to the presence of sea-pens.”

Ireland South MEP Grace O’Sullivan, Green Party Spokesperson for the Marine added,  “The news that over 16,000km2 of fragile marine ecosystems are to be strictly protected is a fantastic development for Ireland and our seas. Civil society organisations have worked hard to achieve this victory over the last few years and should be commended. These areas are home to priceless biodiversity and are also some of the most effective at storing carbon. I believe these areas could now play a central role in the government’s work to protect at least 30% of our waters with new Marine Protected Areas, a third of which should be ‘strictly protected’ from human interference. The EU meanwhile must now ensure that these commitments are met by Member States as the clock is ticking towards 2030.”

The Fair Seas campaign is led by a coalition of  Ireland’s leading environmental non-governmental organisations and networks including  Irish Wildlife Trust, BirdWatch Ireland, Sustainable Water Network, Friends of the Irish Environment, Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, Coomhola Salmon Trust, Irish Environmental Network and Coastwatch. It is funded by Oceans 5, Blue Nature Alliance, BFCT and The Wyss Foundation.

Keep up to date with Fairseas and MPA news and developments, by subscribing up to our newsletter here. Make sure to follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

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.



A huge message in the sand in Co. Waterford calling for 30% of Ireland’s seas to be protected by 2030 to give our species, habitats and coastal communities the opportunity to thrive. Learn more at  Sand Artist: Sean Corcoran, The Art Hand. Location: Kilmurrin Beach, Co. Waterford. Photographer: Tony Kinlan,

Note to editors:

The Fair Seas report “Revitalising Our Seas – Identifying Areas of Interest for MPA Designation in Irish Waters” is available here

The European Commission decision can be found here


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