Minister O’Brien announces Ireland’s formal pledge to protect 30% of marine areas by 2030

Date Released: Thursday, October 12, 2023

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Darragh O’Brien TD has this evening (Wednesday October 11th) reaffirmed in a pledge the commitment made by Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform Malcolm Noonan, to protect 30% of Ireland’s marine areas by 2030. In a new ‘Message from Malahide’ the Minister addressed an audience of delegates from nine Member States attending a European Commission Seminar in Dublin. He highlighted Ireland’s significant progress in meeting the targets to protect marine areas as outlined in the EU Biodiversity Strategy 2030.  

The National Parks and Wildlife Service, of the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage is hosting this three-day seminar in Malahide, Co. Dublin together with the European Commission. The event is one of a series and brings Member States together to assess progress on the EU Biodiversity Strategy, an ambitious, long term plan for protecting nature and reversing the degradation of ecosystems. The strategy contains specific actions and commitments including targets for a larger EU–wide network of protected areas on land and sea. This includes legal protection of at least 30% of EU terrestrial and marine areas by 2030. The European Commission has requested Member States to supply voluntary pledges indicating their contribution to the Biodiversity Strategy 2030 protected area targets.

In his address Minister O’Brien said

“I would like to thank the European Commission for inviting Ireland to host this timely seminar which focuses on one of our most precious resources – our seas. Ireland has an extensive marine area that is rich in biodiversity and provides huge benefits for health and well-being, supports a myriad of coastal communities and is an important component of climate adaptation.

We have signalled our intention to meet these targets by increasing the marine area in our Natura Network from just over 2% of our waters two years ago, to almost 10% today. New legislation, the Marine Protected Areas Bill is also in progress which will legally underpin the designation of Marine Protected Areas. These actions, along with my Department’s pledge here today demonstrate real commitment to protecting our marine biodiversity.”

A number of national and European NGOs are attending the seminar. Speakers include Andrea Vettori, Head of the Nature Conservation Unit at the EU’s DG Environment, EU Commission, scientific experts, and government officials from across Europe who outlined their own country pledges and approaches to meeting targets.  

Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan TD who closes the seminar on Friday said:

“Ireland is proud and determined not just to play its part, but to lead in protecting our irreplaceable marine biodiversity.

Natura sites play a key role in protecting biodiversity, including large numbers of seabirds. Recently we notified new Natura sites -  two large offshore reef Special Area of Conservation (SAC) sites and a large Special Protection Area (SPA) on the east coast. In doing this, we are protecting vulnerable birds and species, and increasing our network of marine protected areas.

Reversing the decline of our biodiversity requires practical action from all of us – governments, civil society, the scientific community and members of the public. Ireland can and will lead by example.”

Niall O’ Donnchú, Director General of the NPWS said:

“We welcome this opportunity to come together with our European colleagues to address this common challenge, share experience and think creatively about our responses to protecting our marine areas. While there is much to learn from the experience of other countries, Ireland has also shown that it has much to offer. I look forward to further engagement with partners and stakeholders in Ireland and across the EU as we build on the work we have done at this seminar.”