A three-year process to create a ‘coherent framework’ for Ireland’s marine space in an ‘efficient and sustainable’ manner, aims to balance differing stakeholder demands while protecting the marine environment, according to the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government.

GSI inshore boats

Geological Survey Ireland INFOMAR vessels. Seabed mapping is integral to developing Ireland’s MSP 

Towards a Marine Spatial Plan for Ireland is intended to become a ‘decision-making tool’ for regulatory authorities and policy-makers on issues relating to individual consent applications and informing future sectoral policies and objectives.

 “Ireland is a maritime nation and we derive so much of our cultural, social and economic identity from our relationship with the seas that surround us. The Government has set out clear and ambitious objectives under Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth – Ireland’s integrated marine plan – to enable our marine potential to be realised,” remarked Eoghan Murphy, Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government.

HOOW aims to double the value of Ireland’s ocean wealth to 2.4% of GDP by 2030 and increase turnover from the ocean economy by more than €6.4bn by 2020.

Reaching these goals will mean significant growth in seafood production and aquaculture; maritime transport; marine renewable energy; marine biotechnology and ICT; marine and coastal tourism and leisure, he added. Minister Murphy also recognised Ireland’s rich marine biodiversity and ecosystems and noted that any framework should be based on sustainable management of the marine environment.

Minister Damien English who has specific responsibility for implementing the Maritime Spatial Planning Directive said that a clear framework should parallel the National Planning Frame Ireland 2040.

“A marine spatial plan will support sustainable environmental management of marine areas; improved certainty and predictability for private investments; lower transaction costs for maritime businesses and improved competitiveness for our marine sectors; improved use of sea space and coexistence of uses in coastal zones and marine waters.”

The plan will also ensure that coastal regions and communities continue to be attractive places to live and work, he added.

The roadmap will have a strong focus on public consultation and environmental assessments, supported by regional workshops, seminars and an interactive web-based facility at www.msp.gov.ie (launch TBC).

Four-stage plan

2017: start-up/activation phase unveiled to public and stakeholders

2018: Analysis and identification of data and information. Public consultation and subsequent publication of an evidence and issues overview

2019: Public consultation and development of a draft plan

2020: Submission to government with supporting environmental assessments (strategic environmental assessment under the SEA Directive, appropriate assessment under the Birds and Habitats Directives) for approval. Submission to the European Commission ahead of March 2021 deadline set out under the Directive.