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					                                         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
4.3.2.1      Fiscal measures for the protection of the marine natural environment in this sector.
4.3.2.1      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.
4.3.2.2      Enforced higher standards of Environmental Impact Assessments and monitoring of
             during- and post-construction impacts of offshore developments. Immediate.
4.3.2.3      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
4.4.2.1      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.
4.4.2.2      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.
4.4.2.3      Mandatory and enforced robust monitoring of during- and post-construction and
             operational impacts.
4.4.2.4      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
4.5.3.1    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
4.5.3.2    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.
4.5.3.3    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.
4.5.3.4    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
4.6.4.1    An audit of coastal habitats, their potential loss to rising sea levels and their ability to
           provide natural ‘soft’ coastal defenses.
4.6.4.2    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).
4.6.4.4    Research into the impacts of a changing climate on wild birds and their habitats to inform
           ecological limits of marine and coastal environments.
4.6.4.5    Habitat creation initiatives to replace lost habitats & facilitate species’ movements.
4.6.4.6    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.
4.6.4.7    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
4.7.3.1    Coherent vision for inshore and offshore fisheries that incorporates ecological
           approaches.
4.7.3.2    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.
4.7.3.3    Integration of ornithological considerations into research and policy proposals and
           research funding priorities.
4.7.3.4    Ecosystem based approaches on a national and regional basis, for all fisheries including
           aquaculture.
4.7.3.5    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).

				
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