New Study by the NWRA explores marine opportunities off the Atlantic coast

  • Study commissioned to explore best practices in regional based marine spatial planning
  • Report will review socio-economic opportunities arising from marine spatial planning including the following sectors: offshore wind, harbour industries, fisheries and tourism.

Ireland’s marine governance and planning system is undergoing a period of fundamental change with the publication of a National Marine Planning Framework (NMPF) and the legislation underpinning a system of marine spatial planning (MSP), both in 2021.

In Offshore renewables, recent reports alone, forecast that by 2037 there could be upwards of 5,000 jobs supported directly by the sector. Much activity is underway along the coastal counties of Galway, Mayo, Sligo, Leitrim and Donegal.

At the same time, demands on marine space are increasing and new economic opportunities are emerging, both on land and at sea. There is an evident need for a regional governance approach to ensure careful coordination of at times competing interests and that a strategic approach is followed from the outset. Why?

David Minton, Director of the Northern and Western Regional Assembly says “to meet current and future demands on the ocean, it is essential to look comprehensively at an ocean area, consider the many different stakeholders who use it, and find ways to sustain the complex diversity of life that depends on it”.

This piece of work is attempting to complement both national and local initiatives. Minton says that ‘we are witnessing an intense focus on where land-meets sea’. Only this week the Port of Galway has been added to the TEN-T network. Then you look at demonstratable and ongoing work in Killybegs Marine Cluster and the strategic potential of Ros an Mhíl for offshore renewable energy.

Our intention according to Denis Kelly (Asst Director / Senior Planner) is to “establish a process to develop a blueprint for area-based management that accounts for multiple management objectives that supports the protection of the marine environment and growth of our marine economy ”, such as

  • bringing together diverse ocean users
  • creating a comprehensive picture of the ocean
  • providing a forum for proactive discussion and informed decision-making
  • providing a coordinated way to allocate marine spaces to simultaneously achieve ecological, economic, and social goals

Marine spatial planning (MSP) is a coordinated approach to designating where human activities occur in the ocean to minimize conflicts among stakeholders, maximize the benefits that people receive from the ocean, and help maintain healthy marine habitats. This study is scheduled for completion in March 2023 and aims to inform both policy and strategic decision making.

Study Purpose

This study will provide expert advice, focusing on the following components:

  • a review of the NMPF and Designated Maritime Area Plans (DMAPs) focussed specifically on the potential implications for regional assemblies and local authorities.
  • a review of selected examples of good practice in regional governance arrangements for MSP from elsewhere in Europe (e.g. Scotland, Germany, Finland).
  • A scoping assessment of socio-economic opportunities arising from MSP for the Northern and Western Region, including the following sectors: offshore wind, harbour industries, fisheries and tourism. This assessment will, in addition, identify potential challenges or constraints arising from commitments under EU and/or national environmental legislation (e.g. marine protected areas, achievement of Good Environmental Status for marine ecosystems).

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