Documentary maker Ken O’ Sullivan is calling on the Irish Government to increase its Marine Protected Areas (MPA), stressing that Ireland is far behind its European counterparts.
The award-winning Clare filmmaker and ocean conservationist pointed to a lot of “human caused damage” in our oceans, and that the implementation of these designated areas would ensure that “certain amounts of the ocean can be protected “from these harmful activities.”
He wants the Irish Government to promise to make 30 per cent of its oceans MPAs by 2030. It currently sits at just two per cent, in total. These areas constitute a globally connected system for safeguarding biodiversity and maintaining marine ecosystem health and the supply of ecosystem services.
“Our percentage of MPAs is very low compared to Europe. We also don’t have policing of these areas, which is a huge part. In implementing them, we can’t just go to locals and dictate. It’s a collective effort that should involve all the stakeholders. We need to work with them and for a solution,” the underwater cameraman stated.
He pointed to the Shannon Estuary in Clare, which is a Special Area of Conservation (SAC), meaning that it is afforded some protections but “what does it mean” as there “are still activities going on here”, he opined. In his time filming for RTÉ, of which he is currently working on a new Atlantic Series for the national broadcaster for two years, he has seen fisheries and supertrawlers operate at the expense of richly diverse coral reefs located off the west coast of Ireland.
“These fisheries are occurring both at surface water and mid-water. These trawlers are coming into our waters to fish. Some are as big as 140 metres long. If they were sitting in Croke Park, they wouldn’t even fit on the field. One of the ends would be in the terrace. There is no incident monitoring out here on these, watching what they do. There is a lot of by-catch and it is certainly not a sustainable practice,” he stated.
Ken who works with Irish Wildlife Trust, hopes to see more artisan fishing going forward, “where families would be directly benefitting instead of large companies.” He is urging the Irish Government to implement 30 per cent of its oceans as MPAs by 2030 and admitted that a target of 10 per cent by 2025 would be both “reachable” and positive”.
“This would be a vital steppingstone and show commitment to a medium term target. We are at a critical time now environmentally and with our oceans. We have a government who are interested and listening to environmental issues. We see countries such as Scotland implementing these at a far greater rate. They are way ahead of us,” he concluded.