Marine Policy DRAFT 16th June 2008 Summary Many of Ireland’s most important birds are seabirds. Despite our relatively low proportion of land cover in Europe (0.7% European or 1.6% EU context) we have significant populations of Europe’s birds (up to 70%), many of which rely on our inshore and offshore waters (Appendix 1). This represents a significant natural asset of local, national, European and international value. There is an unquestionable responsibility to protect and appropriately manage this ecosystem and the bird species dependent on it. Despite the importance of our marine natural resources, relatively little is understood about marine ecological systems. This, combined with the increasing pressure to harness marine resources poses a significant challenge. Existing protection for the marine environment is inadequate, and current management of maritime natural resources is unlikely to be sustainable. The development of new technologies in the race to combat problems associated with a changing climate (energy supply), the demand for seafood (aquaculture, fishing), increased marine transport (port development) and the policies associated with these developments is putting our marine environment under ever increasing pressure. A number of remedial actions are required, and a number of important opportunities need to be created to ensure that problems for our marine biodiversity are addressed and that the use of our marine resources lies within ecological limits in a truly sustainable manner. We are pursuing the policy objectives detailed in this document through our policy and advocacy work, in direct contact with relevant sectors, through the National Biodiversity Forum, Working and Educating for Biodiversity, the Invasive Species Ireland Forum and the Irish Environmental Network, as well as through submissions to national strategies and policy development, and through active lobbying of decision-makers on a national and European scale. This policy document contains the following sections: Summary 1. The importance of our seas 2. Policy context 3. Better understanding of the marine environment 4. Sustainable management of inshore and offshore activities The development of off-shore wind farms on sand banks Aquaculture licensing and monitoring Integrated Coastal Zone Management An integrated Climate Change Adaptation Strategy Viable and informed fisheries 5. Conservation measures & protected areas 6. Marine legislation & a National Marine Strategy For details on BirdWatch Ireland’s policy priorities please see our document Why Birds Count – Policy and Advocacy Priorities for BirdWatch Ireland which is available on our website www.birdwatchireland.ie. 1 The importance of our seas 1.1 Ireland’s location on the Atlantic edge of Europe ensures a rich maritime biodiversity. As top predators, seabirds are very good indicators of this biodiversity. With our extensive coastline, large number of islands and vast territorial waters covering 900,000 sq. km. of seabed (over 10 times the land area), we are internationally important for a range of seabirds. Ireland has sites supporting over 20,000 birds at any time of year (Ramsar sites), and breeding colonies holding more than 1% of the European, or bio-geographic, population of a species listed in Annex I of the EU Birds Directive (e.g. Storm Petrels on the Blasket Islands of Kerry, and Roseate Terns on Rockabill, Dublin). Our seas and coast provide for a wide range of seabird requirements including wintering, breeding, staging, and moulting. Although the Irish Sea is regarded as a shallow-shelf sea, most seabirds generally forage in the shallower parts (banks), including those running down the east coast of Ireland (Kish, Codling, Arklow, Blackwater etc.). 1.2 During the breeding season, seabirds need access to a food resource within a ‘reasonable commuting distance’ of their colony to provision their chicks. They also need access to food in their wintering range or on migratory corridors connecting their winter and breeding/summering ranges. Some seabird species such as male Guillemots become flightless for a short period during their flight-feather moult at a time when they accompany their offspring on departure from a colony in summer. This is an especially crucial time for them; the areas they occupy at this time need sensitive management. For some species e.g. Razorbills and Kittiwakes, a three month nesting season is their only period ashore and most of the rest of the year is spent out at sea. Puffins travel further and probably winter in the Atlantic. Manx Shearwaters spend their winters in the South Atlantic off Brazil and are true long-distance migrants. Four of our five species of terns winter in tropical climes off the west coast of Africa and the fifth, the Arctic Tern, reaches the Southern Ocean. Other species return to land each evening to roost (sleep), e.g. Cormorants and Shags. Black Guillemots, Shags, Herring Gulls most likely spend most of the year relatively close to their breeding colonies. An important part of the European population of Little Gulls migrates to the Irish Sea for the winter from their eastern breeding areas. Here they join other migrants such as Red- throated Divers and Common Scoters coming from the Arctic and boreal areas. Thus, there are thousands of seabirds in the Irish Sea at all times of year though the composition of the ‘community’ is always changing. 1.3 From what we do know of the status of our seabird populations1, it is clear that significant declines are occurring. Nesting success has plummeted in recent years; the decline has been linked to food shortage. The North Sea has become significantly warmer in recent years which has been related to the redistribution and poor availability of prey fish such as sandeels. The warmer sea is thought to have had an adverse affect on plankton numbers to the detriment of sandeels which form a substantial part of the marine food web thus affecting seabirds. Over the last few years, seabirds, in particular Terns, Kittiwakes and Puffins, are now feeding on pipefish due to the low availability of sandeels, their preferred prey. These long, bony, fish are fed to chicks that are unable to swallow them; many chicks have been found starving and Terns have been seen choking to death. Pipefish are appearing more frequently at seabird colonies in the Irish Sea and in Co. Kerry, on Great Skellig, where many Puffins failed to fledge young in 2007. 1 Harris, M.P., Newell, M., Daunt, F., Speakman, J.R. & Wanless, S. 2008. Snake Pipefish Entelurus aequoreus are poor food for seabirds. Ibis 150: 413-415. Heubeck, M. 2002. The decline of Shetland’s Kittiwake population. British Birds 95: 118-122. ICES.2008. Report of the Workshop on Seabird Ecological Quality Indicator, 8-9 March 2008, Lisbon, Portugal. ICES CM 2008/LRC:06.60pp. Lynas, P., Newton, S.F. & Robinson, J.A. 2007. The staus of birds in Ireland: an analysis of conservation concern 2008-2013. Irish Birds 8: 149-166. Mavor, R.A., Parsons, M., Heubeck, M. & Schmitt, S. 2006. Seabird numbers and breeding success in Britain and Ireland, 2005. JNCC, Peterborough. Mitchell, P.I., Newton, S.F., Ratcliffe, N. & Dunn, T.E. 2004. Seabird populations of Britain and Ireland. Poyser, London. www.MCCIP.org.uk 2 Policy context 2.1 Ireland’s existing responsibilities to protect seabirds span national legislation, European directives and international agreements and conventions (Appendix 2). Seabirds are also specifically identified under the EU Birds Directive and EU Habitats Directive. As well as the need to designate and safeguard Special Protection Areas (SPAs), there is a requirement to provide a more general system of protection of some species. Objectives for the conservation of marine biodiversity and the establishment of Marine Protected Areas were also specifically agreed in the Convention of Biological Diversity (1992), at the UN Environment Summit (2002), at the OSPAR conference (2003), and are detailed in the EU Communication on Biodiversity (2006). 2.2 One of the overall objectives of the EU Sustainability Strategy is to improve management and avoid overexploitation of natural resources, recognising the value of ecosystem services. A report produced by the European Commission on Progress on the EU Sustainable Development Strategy (2008) identifies that the conservation and management of natural resources is a fundamental pillar of environmental policy2. Amongst the objectives identified is ‘improving management and avoiding overexploitation of renewable natural resources such as fisheries, biodiversity, water, air, soil and atmosphere, restoring degraded marine ecosystems by 2015 in line with the Johannesburg Plan (2002) including achievement of the Maximum Yield in Fisheries by 2015.’ 2.3 The level of data deficiency for wildlife in the marine environment is alarming and currently there is no strategic research and monitoring regime in place. Despite this large inadequacy, ongoing pressures exist to exploit marine natural resources; these pressures lead to uninformed decision-making and potentially damaging policy. It is important that, in our haste to address one problem (energy supply, demand for seafood), we do not exacerbate existing problems faced by our marine environment and the species it supports. Work to address the information gap to inform protection of the most important areas for seabirds in the offshore urgently needs to begin. 2.4 Potentially damaging policy development strands are identified in Section 4 and include technological advancement of the aquaculture sector, offshore wind power development, coastal defenses in a framework of changing climate (and associated funding for local authorities (2008). 2.5 Ecological approaches3 need to be integrated into natural resource management such as aquaculture, fishery and climate change mitigation to ensure the sustainable management of the marine environment, i.e. within ecological limits of marine ecosystems. Opportunities need to be created to improve existing mechanisms and develop proposed new measures, such as the EU Marine Strategy Directive, the EU Common Fisheries Policy and through the development of our National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy. 2 Progress on EU Sustainable Development Strategy. Final Report. Client: European Commission, Secretariat General. ECORYS Research and Consulting, Nederland BV. Brussels/Rotterdam, 29 February 2008. 3 An ecosystem approach to the management of human activities; ‘the comprehensive integrated management of human activities based on the best available scientific knowledge about the ecosystem and its dynamics, in order to identify and take action on influences which are crucial to the health of marine ecosystems, thereby achieving sustainable use of ecosystem goods and services and maintenance of ecosystem integrity’. The application of the precautionary principle is equally a central part of the ecosystem approach (as per Article 6 of the 1995 UN Fish Stocks Agreement). 3 Better understanding of the marine environment 3.1 Despite the importance of our seas, we know relatively little about the ecological systems supporting wildlife in the marine environment. Birds are indicators of the status of marine environment, and without information on the status of species and their required support species (mostly small fish) it is not possible to make informed decisions either about protection or about potential adverse impacts of any activity. 3.2 There is a strong tradition of censusing Ireland’s seabird colonies, with 3 complete surveys undertaken in the 32 years (1969-2002) culminating in the Seabird 2000 project (see Mitchell et al. 2004). Many individual colonies have been covered much more regularly, and indeed, species of high conservation concern such as Roseate Terns have been surveyed at all colonies almost every year during this period and detailed work has been done on their survival, movements and diet. However, knowledge of these aspects of virtually all other seabird species is poor or none existent. A much more comprehensive national seabird monitoring programme, covering demography, non-breeding distribution and diet, urgently needs to be implemented as a key tool in helping to assess the impacts of consumptive exploitation of depleted resources, climate change and recent offshore developments such as wind farms. 3.3 At present, populations of some seabirds appear to be increasing (Gannet, Lesser Black- backed Gull, Sandwich Tern, Common Tern and perhaps Guillemot), some are stable (Cormorant), and some in decline (Shag, Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull, Puffin) (ICES 2008, Lynas et al. 2007). For some, particularly the nocturnal burrow-nesting Manx Shearwater and European Storm Petrel, we have no idea of population trends as techniques to census them were only developed in time for Seabird 2000. 3.4 The data deficiencies relating to the support system requirements of seabirds is significant in particular for foraging ranges of species, feeding ground usage and the changes in prey abundance and distribution. This basic information is fundamental to allowing the objectives of bird conservation to be met, something the Government has failed to do and was recently highlighted by a European Court of Justice ruling against Ireland4. 3.5 Required actions include the following: Ref. Required action 3.5.1 A more comprehensive national seabird monitoring programme, covering demography, non-breeding distribution and diet, urgently needs to be implemented as a key tool in helping to assess the impacts of consumptive exploitation of depleted resources, climate change and recent offshore developments such as large windfarms. In place by 2010. 3.5.2 Developing appropriate means to ensure on-going protection of seabird foraging areas (sand banks, water temperature fronts and upwelling zones, foraging radii). Immediate. 3.5.3 Raised awareness and implementation of the responsibilities of all Government departments and agencies to address this data deficiency and inform policies and decisions regarding marine natural resources. Immediate. 3.5.4 The development of best practice in monitoring for pre-, during- and post-consent for developments and activities in the marine environment (Section 4). 4 European Court of Justice judgment against Ireland 13 December 2007 Case C-418/04 (OJ C 51, 23.2.2008) th 4 Sustainable management of inshore and offshore activities 4.1 It is important that ecological considerations are incorporated into the development of an approach that ensures the sustainable use of marine resources by protection of our most important wildlife, and setting social and economic needs within environmental limits. The European Commission adopted a Communication on the role of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) in implementing an ecosystem-based approach to marine management (2008). Such an approach needs to be developed for all aspects of marine natural resource management. 4.2 The Irish Government has recently launched initiatives that may have direct positive and negative implications for the sustainable management of marine natural resources including coastal defence programmes, our National Sustainable Development Strategy as well as: - A major initiative to treble the output of renewable powered electricity to 15 % of the total electricity consumed in Ireland by 2010. - Sea Change: A Marine Knowledge, Research & Innovation Strategy for Ireland (2007– 2013) aimed at driving the development of the marine sector as a dynamic element of Ireland’s knowledge economy. - “Steering a New Course – Strategy for a restructured, Sustainable and Profitable Seafood Industry for the period 2007–2013,which should see a record investment of nearly 600 million € in the seafood industry. 4.3 The development of offshore windfarms on sandbanks 4.3.1 The national target for 33% of energy consumption to come from renewable sources by 2020 poses a significant challenge for terrestrial and marine nature conservation. The east coast of Ireland has been identified as suitable for such development given shallow waters and excellent wind resources 5 , and goals of the Government’s Sustainable Energy White Paper 6 include significant investment plans to contribute towards sustainable energy objectives. A priority within the paper is to ‘promote security of energy supply, which is competitively priced, in the long term and implement a significant programme of energy diversification with beneficial environmental effects’.7 Renewable energy incentives are focusing, amongst other things, on the large-scale deployment of wind energy, and preparatory action on ocean energy. BirdWatch Ireland is supportive of the pursuit of non-carbon energy sources, however, robust ecological considerations in policy and policy implementation are required to ensure the environmental effects of alternative energy sources are genuinely beneficial and within ecological limits. 5 Kirk McClure Morton. (undated report). Assessment of Offshore Wind energy Resources in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. 6 2007 Government White Paper, ‘Delivering a Sustainable Energy Future for Ireland’. 7 The Irish Action Plan for Energy Efficiency identifies that Government is implementing fiscal measures to protect and enhance the environment and is examining others, including the introduction of a carbon tax. It details a range of taxation measures supporting renewable energy including a five year excise relief scheme for biofuels (€200M); extension of the qualifying period for the scheme of corporate tax relief for corporate equity investments in certain renewable energy generation projects; extension and enhancement of the Business Expansion Scheme and the Seed Capital Scheme which can, among other manufacturing areas, be used for investment in companies engaged in renewable energy generation and recycling. 4.3.2 Required actions include the following: Ref. Required action 126.96.36.199 Fiscal measures for the protection of the marine natural environment in this sector. 188.8.131.52 A strategic approach to the use, carrying capacity and long term viability (in an ecological context) of east coast sandbanks and zoning of most sensitive areas. Immediate. 184.108.40.206 Enforced higher standards of Environmental Impact Assessments and monitoring of during- and post-construction impacts of offshore developments. Immediate. 220.127.116.11 A significant investment in seabird research to identify species-specific needs and area specific sensitivities in relation to seabird feeding, and fish nursery areas, in Irish waters. Immediate. 4.4 Aquaculture8 licensing and monitoring 4.4.1 The aquaculture sector has grown significantly in Ireland since the 1970s with significant increases in granting licence applications, and moves to develop technologies in the inshore and offshore areas9 particularly in the finfish sector. Despite being subject of a recent (13th December 2007) European Court of Justice judgment against Ireland for systematic failures in the licensing procedure (Galvin 2000), serious concerns remain. 4.4.2 Required actions include the following: Ref. Required action 18.104.22.168 Robust assessments of the impacts of existing and proposed aquaculture developments (including cumulative effects), and enforced higher standards in this area to ensure informed decision making in advance of granting of further licences. Immediate. 22.214.171.124 A strategic approach to the carrying capacity (in an ecological context) of inshore and offshore areas and potential cumulative impacts on an individual bay and regional scale. Including assessment of impacts on important bird populations, and zoning of sensitive areas. 126.96.36.199 Mandatory and enforced robust monitoring of during- and post-construction and operational impacts. 188.8.131.52 Recommendations of the Galvin (2000)10 report to be implemented in consultation with BirdWatch Ireland and other relevant NGOs in order to address the outcome of the European Court of Justice judgment which found against Ireland (2007). Included here are changes in licensing processes particularly for SPAs. Immediate. 4.5 Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) 4.5.1 The development of ICZM in Ireland has been on the ‘back burner’ for many years, yet it is fully functioning in other countries. This approach takes into account the needs of a range of stakeholders and ensures the sustainable use of natural resources for inshore areas. The many pressures on inshore areas range from increased development in the 8 The definition of aquaculture given in Section 3(1) of the Fisheries (Amendment) Act, 1997: the culture or farming of any species of fish, aquatic invertebrate animal of whatever habitat or aquatic plant, or any aquatic form of food suitable for the nutrition of fish. 9 2007 Technical Report by BIM and the Marine Institute Offshore Aquaculture Development in Ireland, next steps 10 Galvin P (2000). Review of the Aquaculture licensing system in Ireland. BirdWatch Ireland Conservation Report No.2000/01. coastal zone, increased demand for recreation in coastal areas, and inshore commercial and domestic harvesting activities. 4.5.2 To date, Ireland has been spared a serious oil pollution incident. However, the last decade has seen several in neighbouring countries (Sea Empress in Wales, Erika in Brittany and the Prestige in Galicia) which have involved components of Irish-breeding seabird populations significantly. With the present-day resources and research effort in marine ornithology, Ireland’s ability to effectively manage a serious incident to both minimise wildlife suffering and adequately monitor the impact would be poor. 4.5.3 Required actions include the following: Ref. Required action 184.108.40.206 The integration of robust Conservation Objectives into integrated management planning processes that address the needs of stakeholders including conservation issues for wild birds such as water quality, fragile substrates, disturbance, coastal, inshore and offshore maritime developments 220.127.116.11 A strategic approach to the carrying capacity (in an ecological context) of inshore and offshore areas and potential cumulative impacts on an individual bay and regional scale. 18.104.22.168 The establishment of monitoring regimes which take into account the assessment of cumulative effects of various changes in the use and patterns of coastal areas on a site specific, bay or regional scale. 22.214.171.124 A capacity-building programme needs to be developed in which a national oiled wildlife response plan is drafted and both governmental and NGO personnel are trained. A permanent facility for dealing with oiled wildlife needs to be resourced and built. 4.6 An integrated Climate Change Adaptation Strategy 4.6.1 Habitats on which birds depend play an important role in our ability to adapt to and mitigate for climate change. It is important that the natural environment is integrated into strategies for dealing with a changing climate. Equally that the public and wildlife benefits, provided by habitats, are not lost in our haste to deal urgently with climate change issues such as energy and flooding. The marine environment and the associated coastal areas need to be a part of these strategies. 4.6.2 Climate-induced changes - Summer weather. In recent years summers seem to be getting wetter and windier, with north to easterly biases in wind direction. Although analyses have not been done to substantiate this claim, the preponderance of northeasterly gales and storms can have severe impacts on seabirds nesting our eastern (Irish Sea) coasts e.g. our mainland-nesting Little Tern colonies at Baltray and Kilcoole, Roseate Terns nesting on Dalkey Island and Kittiwakes at Rockabill. Although there is little we can do about the weather, ‘managed retreat’ options need to be considered for some priority species in which alternate sites are acquired/prepared in case present day colony-sites become untenable. 4.6.3 Climate-induced changes - Changes in prey fish populations. Sea temperature appears to be rising in the present global warming scenario. This influences many levels of the marine food web, and most importantly for seabirds can alter the distribution and abundance of small prey-fish species. In the North Sea, some major seabird colonies have experienced a run of very poor years with high breeding failure rates since 2004. In some cases novel prey species are being brought in to provision young. One such species is the Snake Pipefish, a long, thin, bony and energy-poor fish (Harris et al. 2008), which is rarely eaten by young seabirds even if nothing else is available. This species has been recorded in seabird diet both in the extreme southwest of Ireland (Puffins on Great Skellig) and northeast (Common Terns and Black Guillemots on Rockabill), and may well have been implicated in apparently poor breeding success for the Puffins in 2007. The absence of detailed studies of seabird diet in relation to breeding productivity in Ireland make it difficult to predict what might happen in the near future. 4.6.4 Required actions include the following: Ref. Required action 126.96.36.199 An audit of coastal habitats, their potential loss to rising sea levels and their ability to provide natural ‘soft’ coastal defenses. 188.8.131.52 Coastal protection policies that ensure the retention and appropriate use of soft (energy absorbing) coastal habitats such as sand dunes and estuaries, and ecological approach to coastal defense (creating and retaining coastal habitats). 184.108.40.206 Research into the impacts of a changing climate on wild birds and their habitats to inform ecological limits of marine and coastal environments. 220.127.116.11 Habitat creation initiatives to replace lost habitats & facilitate species’ movements. 18.104.22.168 Integration of ecological approaches into our National Climate Change Strategy and subsequent policy and action resulting from this Strategy, including the proposed National Adaptation Strategy, and a new policy on natural environment and climate change. 22.214.171.124 Awareness of the immense public value of coastal habitats in protection, energy absorption as well as biodiversity needs to be highlighted in all sectors. 4.7 Viable and informed fisheries 4.7.1 As identified by the Common Fisheries policy review (2002) there is a need to incorporate environmental concerns into inshore and offshore fisheries management. This should be achieved through long term strategies to protect vulnerable species including marine birds, and integration of ecological approaches into fisheries management with a view to restoring fish stocks, reducing impacts on non target species, reducing damage to marine habitats, and enhancing the quality of the marine environment. 4.7.2 The European Commission issued a Communication on the role of CFP in ecosystem- based approaches to marine management (2008) which gives added importance to the need of reducing the overall fishing pressure. This single action would significantly alleviate the general environmental footprint of fishing, whether as a direct impact of fish- populations, mortality on seabirds and other biodiversity as by-catch, or through indirect effects through alteration of the food web. 4.7.3 Required actions include the following: Ref. Required action 126.96.36.199 Coherent vision for inshore and offshore fisheries that incorporates ecological approaches. 188.8.131.52 More active management and control of unregulated harvesting. Including regulation of domestic and commercial shellfish harvesting and practical improvements to manage these, and assessment of cumulative impacts. 184.108.40.206 Integration of ornithological considerations into research and policy proposals and research funding priorities. 220.127.116.11 Ecosystem based approaches on a national and regional basis, for all fisheries including aquaculture. 18.104.22.168 Addressing the abuse of ‘private use’ and the commercial harvesting of cockles in estuaries without sufficient information as to the impacts on our estuarine wildlife needs to be addressed. Raised awareness, appropriate monitoring, licensing and enforcement in the sensitive areas are required. 5 Conservation measures & protected areas 5.1 As well as integrated ecological approaches and robust consideration of wild birds and their habitat requirements in decision-making and policy development, targeted action for species and groups of species is required. For example, we are working closely with colleagues in RSPB on behalf of OSPAR to produce a “Status assessment for Sterna dougallii” (Roseate Tern). Such action, targeting management measures and the establishment of Marine Protected Areas, needs to address the specific needs of bird species of national and international importance, and safeguard threatened and declining species, habitats and ecosystems. 5.2 We believe Marine Special Protection Areas would afford the urgently needed protection of feeding, roosting, staging and moulting locations of our seabird populations. To date, there are none in Irish waters. Yet there is an obligation on the Irish Government to identify potential marine Special Protection Areas for wild birds listed in Annex 1 of the EU Birds Directive by 2008. The locations of feeding grounds in particular are also likely to reflect the nursery and breeding grounds of important fisheries. Nationally and internationally important sites for birds need to be included in a suite of marine protected areas to ensure a comprehensive set of sites representing the range of ecological characteristics in Irish waters where management can be improved. 5.3 Invasive Alien Species. Seabirds select islands and cliffs for their nesting colonies to avoid depredation from mammals. The introduction of non-native ‘aliens’ to such sites can result in the local extinction of vulnerable species such as burrow-nesting shearwaters, petrels and Puffins. Most large islands in the Irish Sea have populations of rats (mainly Brown Rattus norvegicus e.g. Skerries Islands, Lambay, Ireland’s Eye, Dalkey Island, Great Saltee, and Lambay also supports Black or Ship Rats Rattus rattus) introduced either as a result of shipwrecks or by natural (swimming) or boat assisted dispersal from the mainland. Colonies of Manx Shearwaters and Puffins, if present, on each of these islands are at depressed levels and their productivity is almost certainly very poor. Eradication programmes should be given a high priority, given the importance of Irish islands for these species. On west coast islands there increasing development pressures (facilities for recreational visitors e.g. Great Blasket). Consent to such works should only be granted if, and when adequate safeguards are in place to prevent the accidental introduction of non-native species. 5.4 The role of disease in bird population dynamics is very poorly understood with the notable exception of parasites and gamebirds, especially Red Grouse. Although, the spectre of a highly pathogenic avian influenza pandemic still hangs over northwest European countries, we are still coping with the outcome of other disease-related population impacts. For example the Herring Gull was placed on the Irish Red-list in late 2007, following a 90% decline in the breeding population. One of the likely key factors behind this decline was avian botulism. Virtually no research has been done on how and why these bacteria persist in the Irish marine environment given the very much improved waste handling at our coastal land-fill rubbish dumps which were thought to be the origin of the problem. Presumably, the much- reduced Herring Gull population is now constrained by other factors such as low food availability. 5.5 Required actions include the following: Ref. Required action 5.5.1 Investment in research and monitoring work that will inform the designation of marine SPAs, national marine designations, and the zoning of the most important marine areas of wild birds and the habitat requirements for feeding, roosting, and staging. Immediate. 5.5.2 Improved understanding of essential functioning of marine ecosystems so that we can adopt ecosystem based approaches to marine management. Immediate. 5.5.3 Better communication, advice, training and local community involvement in processes concerning the sustainable management of fisheries. 5.5.4 Implementation of species and habitat management plans identifying targeted actions of individual species and groups of species. These need to address Conservation Objectives for seabirds and should be integrated into natural resource management strategies, and delivered through active conservation management. Current threats include: - fisheries through the loss of food, - the destruction of the seabed (which supports some of their preferred prey), - increase in inshore and offshore development, - entanglement in marine litter and impacts from pollution such as oil and chemicals. - entrapment through use of longlines 5.5.5 Adequate resources for Competent Authorities, including resources to carryout management, monitoring and to enforce monitoring, assessment and revisions of management arrangements where necessary as well as ensure optimal communications between responsible departments and agencies. 5.5.6 Local and regional management plans including the zoning of fisheries and sensitive areas, allowing the optimizing sustainable fisheries and nature conservation, which use best practice for priority species and protected areas. 5.5.7 In order to avoid the pollution of coastal wetlands and the cumulative impacts of coastal development adjacent to areas of importance to wild birds, appropriate zoning of areas adjacent to these and other sensitive sites is required. New National Government and Local Government policy that ensures the buffering of coastal estuaries and all designated sites is required. 6 Marine Legislation & a National Marine Strategy 6.1 The marine environment needs to be managed in order to comply with principles of sustainable development, the precautionary principle and environmental integration. A legislative ‘toolkit’ for marine natural resource management is required to legislate for and enforce the sustainable management of the marine environment and delivery of marine environmental objectives. 6.2 The new European Marine Strategy Directive 11 will require Government to deliver ‘good environmental status of our seas. Our seabird populations provide an indicator of status and an assessment of whether or not measures are affective. Our work on a national level and through BirdLife International will look to ensure the needs of seabirds and their habitat requirements are also addressed through the implementation of this strategy. 6.3 Required actions include the following: Ref. Required action 6.3.1 A National Marine Strategy and supporting legislation that includes a suite of protection and integration measures, and associated legislation to ensure enforcement of conservation objectives, and alignment across Ireland and Northern Ireland. 6.3.2 Reform of existing legislation underpinning natural resource management to adopt 11 In October 2005 the Commission adopted the Thematic Strategy (TS) on the protection and Conservation of the Marine Environment. The main component of the Marine Strategy is a Directive – a Marine Strategy Directive – with the aim of achieving ‘good environmental status’ in the marine environment by 2021, at the latest. environmental integration, and sustainability. Including: • A revised Foreshore Act • A marine planning regime that allows for third party appeal process at least on par with terrestrial requirements. • Robust legislation underpinning inshore fisheries management achieving environmental integration and sustainable use of fish stocks 6.3.3 Reform of wildlife legislation in order to address species specific conservation measures at sea. And secure the creation and management of marine protected areas. 6.3.5 Implementation of the Environmental Liability Directive, guidance as to its application in relation to protection of wild birds and their habitat requirements in the marine environment. Incorporate responsibilities for third parties (commercial interest, recreation) and clarify competent authorities. 6.3.6 Coordination and alignment of policies and responsibilities between departments, and a responsibility for conservation of natural resources built into the remit of Government departments and agencies with involvement in marine natural resource management. Appendix 1: The importance of Ireland’s birds in a European context. Ireland has 0.7% land cover in a European context, and 1.6% land cover in a European Union (27 members states) context. The proportion of European bird populations supported by Ireland are presented in the tables below which show the ten most prevalent species. Tables were provided by Ian Burfield, European Research and Database manager, BirdLife International. April 2008. The importance of (the Republic of) Ireland’s The importance of (the Republic of) Ireland’s breeding birds: European context (0.7%) breeding birds: EU27 context (1.6%) Roseate Tern 39% European Storm-petrel 70% European Storm-petrel 21% Roseate Tern 39% Northern Gannet 11% Rock Pipit 20% Manx Shearwater 9% Meadow Pipit 13% Rock Pipit 8% Northern Gannet 12% Meadow Pipit 7% Rook 12% Common Wood-pigeon 6% Razorbill 11% Winter Wren 5% Sand Martin 10% Mute Swan 5% Manx Shearwater 10% European Shag 4% Common Guillemot 8% Appendix 2: A brief summary of national and international obligations to protect wild bird interests. Wild birds and their habitats are protected through national and European legislation, and international agreements and conventions. Accordingly, Ireland is required to: o Maintain favourable conservation status of all naturally occurring wild bird species (EU Birds Directive). o Protect listed bird species and their habitat requirements for breeding and feeding, in the wider countryside and through the designation of sites as Special Protection Areas (SPAs). This adds to the network of designated sites called Natura 2000, which Ireland has an obligation to protect and monitor (EU Birds Directive and EU Habitats Directive). o Make special provision for all regularly occurring migratory bird species on land and sea regarding their breeding, moulting, wintering and staging posts along migration routes (EU Birds Directive, Bonn Convention). o Make special provision for wetlands and wetland birds (EU Birds Directive, Ramsar Convention, African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement, Wetlands International) o Halt the decline of biodiversity on local, national and global scales (Rio Convention on Biological Diversity 1992, Berne Convention, EU Biodiversity Communication 2006, EU Biodiversity Action Plan 2007, the National Biodiversity Plan 2002 – 2006 and 2007 – 2012 in prep, Environment Summit in Johannesburg (2002).