The Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan TD, welcomed the launch today (Wednesday 13 September) of the most comprehensive assessment ever undertaken of the environmental status of the North-East Atlantic.
OSPAR’s Quality Status Report (QSR) 2023 highlights how a loss of marine biodiversity, pollution and climate change continue to affect the North-East Atlantic. Among a myriad of findings the report concludes that climate change and ocean acidification, which is caused by the sea’s increased uptake of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and which impacts the ability of organisms to form shells and skeletons, are important drivers of change in the North-East Atlantic, in turn threatening marine biodiversity. It also presents further evidence that the state of marine food webs is changing. Improvements in relation to human activities have however been recorded in a number of areas, such as the prevention of pollution by radioactive substances and a reduction in negative impacts from oil and gas activities.
Commenting on the ground-breaking report and its findings, Minister Noonan said:
“As living witnesses to a changing Atlantic, it’s crucial that we regularly and rigorously gather the science and present the evidence that tells us how our marine environment is doing, and that we do that in concert with our neighbours in the UK, mainland Europe and our Nordic and Icelandic partners. OSPAR and the QSR 2023 provide that platform, to work together for our shared marine environment and to point out where decisive action is needed to protect it and restore it.
For Ireland, the QSR 2023 assessments indicate how the comparatively lower level of urbanisation and industrial activity around our coasts and in our seas has so far afforded us a relatively clean, healthy, diverse and productive marine environment. However, it’s clear that the identified wider and growing challenges posed by climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution, including marine litter, and the ongoing poor status of many marine species and habitats demonstrate a clear need for further coordinated action by OSPAR Contracting Parties.”
Mr. Michael Gillooly, Interim Chief Executive Officer of the Marine Institute said :
“The Marine Institute welcomes the publication of the OSPAR QSR report 2023, which provides a comprehensive assessment of the environmental health of the North-East Atlantic Ocean. The importance of maintaining a healthy ocean is vital for Ireland’s future, it provides us with jobs, food and regulates our climate.
The compilation of scientific evidence is critical to informing the health of our seas and oceans. Changes in the environmental status of our waters affect seafood, transport and biodiversity. The QSR 2023 is an important source of evidence for scientists, decision makers and the public about the state of our ocean and the challenges it faces.
I am especially pleased by the contribution of my colleagues in the Marine Institute to the delivery of the Quality Status Report 2023. We have a team of scientists with expert knowledge on the marine environment, pollution, biodiversity and climate who collaborated with their international colleagues to complete the assessments and prepare the report. In particular, I would like to thank the leadership of Dr Maurice Clarke, who is chair of the OSPAR Fish Expert Group and Dr Evin McGovern, Co-convenor of the OSPAR Group on Ocean Acidification”.
Eimear Cotter, Director of the Office of Evidence and Assessment at the EPA said:
"The EPA is delighted to have contributed to this report alongside national and international OSPAR partners. This report provides the scientific facts, gathered over more than a decade from over 400 international experts, to bring us the most comprehensive report dealing with the North-East Atlantic area. This report will be valuable for all of the countries in the area, including Ireland, as we continuously monitor and report on the marine environment nationally to support clean, healthy and biologically diverse oceans.
Encompassing many years of work by 16 parties to the OSPAR Convention, including Ireland, the report sets out the evidence to inform important international and national decisions on how to improve this vital environment. The QSR 2023 results from the combined efforts of over 400 experts, scientists, data analysts and policy colleagues, supported by contributions from OSPAR observers coming from industry, environmental non-governmental organisations and international partner organisations.
Ireland has played a significant role in the whole QSR 2023 assessment, through its chairmanship of the OSPAR Commission in 2018-2022 and through its national delegation to OSPAR, which comprises members of three Government Departments with additional experts drawn from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Marine Institute and Irish universities.
As part of Ireland’s response to many such marine environmental challenges, and to implementing the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive to achieve and maintain good environmental status in our maritime area, the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage has been developing comprehensive legislation that will enable the designation, management and expansion of Ireland’s network of marine protected areas (MPAs). Following publication of its General Scheme in December 2022, the Marine Protected Areas Bill is now at an advanced stage of development and is expected to be progressed through the Houses of the Oireachtas in the coming months.