Energised by a hearty lunch, the Fair Seas World Ocean Day conference attendees sat back down at their seats to enjoy and listen to the second panel session of the day titled ‘Delivering transformational change for MPA management’. 

This session was kicked off with a fantastic keynote presentation by Eimear Manning of the National Youth Council of Ireland. Eimear spoke about the benefits and moral arguments of hearing voices of young people on important societal issues, and including them in decision-making, particularly when it comes to climate and environmental justice matters. Ending her presentation, Eimear reiterated how ‘Meaningful youth inclusion should be youth-centred, not youth-focused’.

Watch Eimear Manning’s talk here. 

Next up was Joe Richards from the UK-based conservation charity Blue Marine Foundation. Joe used his eight-minute presentation to speak about ‘Marine Protected Areas: where low impact fishing can co-exist with conservation’. He also noted the importance of collaborative management of sites and how a bottom-up approach to MPA designation implementation was a common feature of successful MPA projects around the world.

Watch Joe Richard’s talk here. 

Dr. Siobhan Vye heralds from Wales and works for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) in the UK, but told us how privileged she is to be involved in a project called ‘Atlantic Guardians’ which supports the ongoing community management of Tristan Da Cunha’s Marine Protection Zone (MPZ).

The Tristan Da Cunha MPZ is in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean and covers 690,000 km2 of the waters surrounding the remote Island. Conference attendees heard how the small Island community on Tristan showed leadership on the local, island and global stage by deciding to fully protect 90% of its waters in the marine protection zone, prohibiting fishing activity in the vast majority of their waters.

Watch Siobhan Vye’s talk here. 

The final speaker in the afternoon session was Adrian Gahan from National Geographic’s Pristine  Seas. Starting with a wonderful video about the global reach of Pristine Seas and the importance of healthy seas for people, livelihoods and biodiversity, Adrian told the audience why strictly protected MPAs are the best way to protect both Irish nature and fisheries. Finishing with a word of caution to Ireland’s policy and decision makers, Adrian said that weak MPAs will not deliver for nature or the economy and that the next 6 months is key to the success of Ireland’s 30×30 MPA ambitions.

Watch Adrian Gahan’s talk here. 

Before the panellists re-joined the MC Susan HayesCulleton on stage for more questions from the audience, Cork City Hall heard from former Vice President of the United States of America Al Gore. In a virtual address to the room, the environmentalist and climate campaigner painted a clear picture of the damage human-driven climate change has caused the planet, and urged global leaders, including Ireland, to not only tackle the climate crisis with ambition and strength but to remember that the ocean is a key ally in tackling the twin biodiversity and climate crisis together.

Former US Vice President Al Gore’s address to Ireland at the Fair Seas World Ocean Day Conference 2023.

Questions from the audience on how Ireland can deliver transformational change for MPA management came in thick and fast, with topics of MPA colocation with offshore renewable wind, community involvement in MPAs, and the need for top-down Government support for MPAs all discussed before time drew to a close. 

To hear more about the third-panel discussion of the day giving voice to the local and national stakeholders who will be involved in Ireland’s MPA journey, check out the next in our series of blogs detailing the Fair Seas World Ocean Day conference.

We’ve uploaded all the amazing photographs from the conference on our Facebook page. Go check them out and feel free to tag yourself, share and download them.

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