Aoife O’ Mahony, Fair Seas Campaign Manager




Four out of five want additional protection for Irish coastal waters and oceans


There is strong support for more legal protection for Irish waters according to a coalition of Ireland’s leading environmental non-governmental organisations and networks. Fair Seas has revealed details of its survey conducted to learn about the connection Irish people have with the sea. 


The research shows that 31% of people believe that Irish seas are healthy and that 67% of people believe the health of Irish seas has worsened in the past ten years. 


The poll reveals that 45% of people know what a Marine Protected Area (MPA) is, up from 37% of people at the start of this year. It also shows strong support for additional protections with four out of five people saying they would support a campaign to protect more of our seas. 


Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are areas of our seas and coasts legally protected from activities that damage the habitats, wildlife and natural processes that occur there. Fair Seas is calling on the Government to designate a minimum of 30% of Irish waters as MPAs by 2030. Currently, just 2% of Irish waters are protected. 


Over 1,000 adults were surveyed by RED C for the online poll between October 21st and 27th, 2022. Data was weighted across gender, age, region and social class to ensure a nationally representative sample.


Some of the findings include:


  • One-third (31%) of people surveyed believe Irish seas are healthy
  • Two-thirds of people (67%) believe Irish seas have worsened in the past decade. 
  • Almost half of people surveyed (45%) say they know what a Marine Protected Area is, up from 37% in February
  • A majority of people (81%) agree with more legal protection for our seas 
  • Four out of five people (80%) would support a campaign for more legal protection
  • More than three-quarters of people (77%) say they understand the importance of healthy seas
  • More than half (53%) would be more likely to visit an area if it was declared a Marine Protected Area


Aoife O’ Mahony, Campaign Manager for Fair Seas said, “This is the second time we’ve surveyed people across the country for their views about protecting our seas. It shows that very few people are satisfied with the health of Irish waters and that the vast majority of people are in favour of additional legal protection. The Government has committed to protecting 30% of our waters before 2030. However, that’s less than eight years away, we need to act now to restore critical habitats, safeguard wildlife and help address the climate crisis. The upcoming MPA legislation will provide a key tool to help Ireland to address the health of our oceans and provide a framework to designate and implement properly managed MPAs.” 


Dr Donal Griffin, Marine Policy officer with Fair Seas added, “Marine Protected Areas are like a National Park in the ocean and are an important conservation tool to help improve the health of our ocean. It is only when areas designated for nature are properly managed and are achieving their conservation objectives, that they positively contribute to tackling biodiversity loss.”


Fair Seas published a report in June 2022 identifying 16 ‘Areas of Interest’ for MPA designation in Irish waters. The locations are home to critically endangered sharks, globally important seabird colonies, and animals threatened with extinction which rely on these areas for breeding and feeding such as Atlantic puffins and blue whales. 


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, Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, Coomhola Salmon Trust, Irish Environmental Network and Coastwatch. 

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.




1,003 people completed the online survey between the 21st and 27th of October 2022.



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