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OPINION – WEEKLY BLOG

WILL THERE BE ENOUGH MARINE SPACE FOR EVERYONE?

Offshore energy development, wind farms, marine protected areas, fishing, marine leisure, shipping transport, there are many pressures now emerging on maritime space. This is being referred to as “maritime spatial pressure”. Basically, the issue arising is whether there will be enough space for all these developments, without their impact upon each other causing difficulties, controversy and confrontation. Already there is concern in the fishing industry that the locations being chosen for wind farm locations are being chosen on traditional fishing grounds. With MPAs (Marine Protected Areas) to be located on coastal areas, this pressure is increasing.

The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group has called for “integrity” in wind farm and MPAs planning and expressed concerned that “hidden agendas” coould have profound impact on Coastal communities. “Ireland’s coastal waters are facing unprecedented Marine Spatial Planning pressures including Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) and Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) leading to a real sense of spatial squeeze.,” it says. “These emerging policy areas will define not only how people use it over the coming decades but our relationship with the sea. How we establish which areas to use for what projects remains to be seen, but it is clear that to be effective coastal communities and especially fishers, will need to be at the heart of the decision-making process.” In this month’s edition of my MARITIME IRELAND Podcast/Programme and in an article in the August edition of the MARINE TIMES newspaper, the IWDG expresses concern about the use of social media to spread false information about the issue of “the spatial squeeze”. This is an important issue and it is not getting sufficient attention from Government, politicians or the national media, so the public is largely unawar of the pressure emerging on martime squeeze, who is going to benefit? Will Irish waters again be used for huge profit-making by multi-international companies, but without sufficient regard to the impact on the traditional rights of Irish marine-users?

In his interview on MARITIME IRELAND, Padraig Whooley of the IWDG makes points which raise concerns that require a lot of thought and will be of concern to all users of the marine sphere.

“ “Ireland’s coastal waters are facing unprecedented Marine Spatial Planning pressures including Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) and Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) leading to a real sense of spatial squeeze. These emerging policy areas will define not only how people use them over the coming decades, but our relationship with the sea. Decision-making and policy development are a combination of many factors including social and economic considerations, traditions from the past and use of the best available scientific advice, all of which shape our vision for coastal communities into the future,” he says.

IWDG is an NGO (non-governmental organisation), which is a member of several environmental organisations. Ireland’s coastal waters are facing unprecedented Marine Spatial Planning pressures including Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) and Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) leading to a real sense of spatial squeeze. These emerging policy areas will define not only how people use them over the coming decades, but our relationship with the sea.

“How we establish which areas to use for what projects remains to be seen, but it is clear that to be effective, coastal communities and especially fishers, will need to be at the heart of the decision-making process,” according to the IWDG. It expresses concern about the making of policy decisions: “Evidence-based approach to decision-making works as it reduces the risk of important decisions being based on ‘opinions’, be they personal or organisational.” It says that, at present, there is a risk of ‘opinions’ taking precedence over evidence-based decision-making. Separating facts from opinions often makes it impossible to know where the truth lies. When these personal opinions are delivered on social media platforms, the gap between fact and fiction becomes increasingly blurred.

“The designation of MPA’s and the construction of Offshore Wind Farms are going to happen. This is not debatable. They are in the programme for government and essential for our sustainable futures.What is debatable is the designation and management of these areas and how those most affected are going to be consulted, listened to and brought into the process.”

This is an important expression of opinion on a matter that must get more attention than it is receiving at present.

Tom MacSweeney

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