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World Ocean Day: Nature Restoration Law would help clean up Ireland’s failing coastlines

Pic: Brian Lougheed

At the inaugural Fair Seas Conference, MEP for Ireland South Grace O’Sullivan underlined the importance of the legally-binding marine targets of the embattled EU Nature Restoration Law. The Law faces stiff opposition from conservatives and Member States in Brussels.

MEP O’Sullivan said: “Our seas are struggling. Half of Ireland’s studied marine habitats are in decline, with over 85% of habitats now in ‘unfavourable’ condition. The Nature Restoration Law sets out to reverse this trend, with binding targets to restore 30% of marine habitats to favourable status by 2030. For Ireland this will be instrumental in protecting our kelp forests, habitats of species like angle sharks and also mitigate carbon emissions from sediment beds which are regularly trawled.”

The Nature Restoration Law is facing opposition in the European Parliament, especially from Fine Gael’s ‘European People’s Party’ Group, which is calling for a ‘regulatory slowdown’ ahead of elections next year. The Nature Restoration Law is the last major piece of legislation under the so-called ‘European Green Deal’ which was launched by Commission President Ursula von der Leyen at the start of her mandate. Both von der Leyen and Irish Commissioner Mairead McGuinness have supported the Nature Restoration Law, despite opposition from their own European People’s Party political group.

The MEP continued: “The law also plans to return 25,000km of European rivers to free flowing status, in order to tackle consistent flooding and help species like Atlantic salmon and the endangered European eel to recover. We are an island nation, so far we have failed to look after our seas and oceans, with over 30 locations still pumping raw sewage into the water where people swim. This law could change that, but we need all political parties on board. So far we have seen a failure of political leadership from conservatives in the European Parliament, we’re working to change their minds.”

MEP O’Sullivan’s comments come during her campaign to improve bathing facilities in riverside towns across Ireland, calling for a ‘lido’ style facility in every seaside town in Ireland by 2030 starting with Cork City.

The Fair Seas campaign, who held their inaugural conference to mark World Ocean Day in Cork City, is a coalition of Irish environmental organisations who are calling for 30% of Ireland’s ocean territory to be fully protected by 2030. Legislation is due to come before the Oireachtas in the coming weeks which aims to meet Ireland’s commitment to massively expand Ireland’s Marine Protected Areas. The legislation was a key ask of the Green Party in the Programme for Government.

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