We would like to sincerely thank Coastwatch and all the participants of The Coastwatch Conference on ‘Our Seaweed Resources – taking actions to use wisely’ on May 5th 2016 at Trinity College Dublin. Based on scientific reports and insights from experts in various disciplines, the conference called on the Irish Government to:
1 Close our waters to mechanical and motorised boat rake methods for wild seaweed harvesting. This moratorium is called for as we lack sufficient knowledge of seaweed ecosystems, their services and harvest impacts.
2 Prevent unsustainable harvesting in Natura 2000 sites by setting up a transparent appraisal, monitoring and control system with public consultation. Monitor impacts of small scale activities so cumulative damage is avoided, with citizen science and public participation. Local information and marine N 2000 site management should be evident on seaweed harvested N 2000 sites by May 2017.
3 Set up a Seaweed Protection and Management Forum, tasked to spearhead and coordinate information gathering and preparing action.
4 Publish seaweed license ‘pre applications’ on line once lodged, for early public comment. Also publish all comments/observations electronically as is the norm with planning applications and for good practise and compliance with the Aarhus Convention.
5 Research: produce a national mapped seaweed resource inventory as well as supporting seaweed ecosystem research. Identify health/damage indicators building on the EPA WFD monitoring protocol. Apply research when deciding on licensing harvesting and setting conditions, which allows for early action if impacts are recorded. Support research into seaweed aquaculture and development, including co-location: like renewable energy infrastructure.
6 Publish the marine area and foreshore (amendment) Bill before the summer recess and provide adequate time for consultation; make any amendments for the common good and adopt the new act in 2016. Include provision for regulating wild resource harvest in the new act and define whether seaweed harvesting is fishery or removal of beach material and the role of County Councils.
7 Provide sustainable seaweed harvest training (and support participation possibly through the EMFF). Include seaweed ecosystem information, least impact harvesting methods, stock/biota monitoring and preparation of local seaweed protection and management plans. We suggest this as optional for traditional harvesters with ownership/ rights, but mandatory for new entrants and organically certified operators. Certificates and harvest passports would help manage effort and aid resource protection and supply for traditional harvesters.
8 Provide traditional harvest right registration information and support, so that the Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act 2009 Sect. 38 as amended by the Civil Law Act 2011 can be used by traditional harvesters. Information on registering of seaweed rights which arise from common law or by prescription under the Act should be available as Practice Direction on the website of the Property Registration Authority.
9 Initiate public consultation on creation of MPAs, including X-border designation. Set seaweed habitat as a MPA selection criterion and ensure enough habitat is included in the MPA network to adequately protect inshore biodiversity, food webs and fisheries resources.
10 Compile a seaweed data bank including research undertaken, education and training materials and a public register of government departments and agency officials and researchers working on seaweeds.
11 Prepare (i) a seaweed habitat protection plan (ideally all Ireland) with strong public awareness campaign and a dovetailed (ii) seaweed harvest management strategy, which protects long term ecological sustainability using the new FAO Fisheries Guidance and sets binding wild seaweed harvesting standards for all commercial harvesting. The standards should be modelled on the organic Regulation (EC) No 889/2008, to ensure harvesting does not ‘affect the long term sustainability of the natural habitat or the maintenance of the species in the collection area.” This would also align Ireland with the EC Bioeconomy strategy 2012. Sustainability must be defined as ecological sustainability because of many seaweed species’ role as marine habitat for other important species and species of formal conservation concern.
12 Update legislation to enable government (RoI) to create the coherent network of marine protected areas (MPAs) as urgently required under the MSFD. The conference supports two further points, which some felt should be spear headed by non-governmental bodies:
You can find the full details of the conference proceedings at http://coastwatch.org/europe/
Our ancestors worked to secure our future. Don't we want to secure the future of OUR children? Let's use our seaweed resources wisely. They are the last sustainable resource we have to fight for.
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