Just before the Christmas break, the Irish Government published the General Scheme of Ireland’s new Marine Protected Area (MPA) legislation. This 57-page document sets out, what the proposed legislation, once drafted, will contain.

This is a big and important step towards Ireland being able to create nationally based MPAs under new legislation and fulfil its commitments of achieving 30% of Ireland’s seas designated as a Marine Protected Area by 2030.

This week (January 25th 2023) is a significant week for the future of Ireland’s seas and marine biodiversity. The Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Local Government and Heritage are scrutinising the General Scheme for Ireland’s new MPA legislation.

You can watch the first meeting from the 26th January on Oireachtas TV here. 

There is a lot to be positive about in the General Scheme, legal provisions that, if appropriately implemented, will improve how we manage, value and prioritise our seas. However, there is also much room for improvement, specifically in how we designate, manage and enforce these new MPAs. Only with strong and robust legislation providing the necessary framework to implement these things effectively, can Ireland’s seas deliver the full suite of benefits to biodiversity and society that MPAs can help provide.

Fair Seas recently published our top priorities for the new legislation, setting out 10 key asks of the Government to ensure the MPA legislation is ambitious, robust and effective. While the Fair Seas team analyse the contents of the General Scheme to figure out what is good, what is bad and what is missing, it is worth noting that there is still a long way to go before the proposed legislation is over the line.

The journey of Ireland’s MPA legislation over the coming weeks and months. 

First, the General Scheme will go to a pre-legislative scrutiny committee in the Oireachtas. The committee will put together their recommendations for the legislation after discussion and receiving evidence from external groups (including Fair Seas). These recommendations from the committee will then be passed onto the government and will help inform the first draft of the new law.

Next, the first draft will go through the various committee and reporting stages in Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann, including considering amendments which will be a critical (and final) time to improve the contents of the proposed legislation.

After the debates and amendments have all been settled upon and are approved in both houses, the legislation will be sent to President Micheal D. Higgins for final sign-off into Irish Law. Fair Seas’ focus over the coming months is ensuring the new law delivers for Ireland’s seas!

Marine Protected Area legislation timeline Ireland 2023

Read the Fair Seas White Paper for our key asks of the MPA legislation.

Read the Fair Seas Legal Handbook, which gives the background information and current status of existing legislation useful for informing policy-making decisions in the future.

If we are to genuinely give our native species, habitats and coastal communities the opportunity to thrive, we need robust MPA legislation that allows for the proper funding, monitoring and management of Ireland’s new MPA network.

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.

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