A new report published today [18 September, 2018] brings together for the first time a clear picture of all activity in Ireland’s seas. The National Marine Planning Framework Baseline Report is a key part of the process of developing Ireland’s first marine spatial plan, which will be the equivalent of the National Planning Framework for the marine area.

The Federation of Irish Sport has represented sporting interests on the Group looking into this important area.

As identified in Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth, a comprehensive National Marine Planning Framework enable the Government set a clear direction for managing our seas, clarify objectives and priorities, and direct decision-makers, users and stakeholders towards more strategic, efficient use of marine resources.

The purpose of the Baseline report is to set out the context in which the marine spatial plan is being developed and help to identify the key issues marine planning will need to address. It sets out a description of the “as is” situation in terms of existing sectoral development and activities in Ireland’s maritime area, including an identification of the future opportunities and constraints for each, and number of consultation questions or issues intended to prompt discussion and consideration amongst stakeholders. Responses to these questions will be a crucial input to the draft plan. The first draft NMPF is intended to be published in mid-2019 for a further round of consultation.

Stakeholder and public engagement is a critical part of the process and representatives from all the key sectors comprise an advisory group overseeing the process. This includes fisheries, aquaculture, energy, tourism, sport, local authorities as well as the social and economic pillars and environmental NGOs such as Bird Watch Ireland, SWAN, Coastwatch, An Taisce and the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group.

The Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government is responsible for the development of the framework and Minister of State Damien English has specific responsibility for marine planning. Speaking on the Baseline Report, which was brought to the Government for approval at today’s  Cabinet meeting, the Minister said: ‘When we see the demands being placed on our marine area clearly laid out we can effectively consider whether those demands can be met simultaneously or whether some management or governance is required in particular areas.

Developed with assistance from the Marine Institute, the report is available to be viewed on the department website, www.housing.gov.ie and the public are invited to make submissions on it until midday 14 December 2018. A series of regional events will take place on the Baseline Report in Waterford (2nd October), Galway (5th October), Sligo (12thOctober), Cork (19thf October) and Dublin (23rd October). These will be introduced by the Minister and will feature an international perspective and a moderated panel discussion featuring high-profile guests from a range of marine-related backgrounds (environmental, renewable energy, sport, planners, port authorities etc.) with audience participation. The panellists will be invited to give their sectoral perspective on what objectives or policies they think Ireland’s National Marine Planning Framework should include. For more see the website, twitter: @MSP_Ireland or email msp@housing.gov.ie