Legislation is currently (January 2023) being prepared to enable the designation of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in Irish waters. Pending clarification of how an Irish MPA will be defined, there are currently three differing understandings, each of increasing stricture, of what constitutes a de facto MPA on the South Wexford Coast: (A) all of the marine and maritime Natura 2000 sites (SPAs + SACs), (B) only the SACs, and (C) only the areas of the SACs supporting one or more of the following six habitats recognised as marine habitats: (1) Estuaries, (2) Large shallow inlets and bays, (3) Mudflats and sandflats not covered by sea water at high tide, (4) Reefs, (5) Sandbanks that are slightly covered by seawater at all times, and (6) Submerged or partly submerged sea caves (https://www.npws.ie/marine/marine-habitats). On foot of interpretation (C), MPAs on the South Wexford Coast comprise the following six SACs: Hook Head, Bannow Bay, Ballyteige Burrow, Saltee Islands, Lady’s Island Lake, and Carnsore Point (highlighted here in red). Though designated for a seabird, the Keeragh Islands are not regarded a MPA. Tacumshin Lake is not regarded a MPA either as the site is not designated for any marine habitat. Pending clarification on what constitutes a Marine Protected Area (MPA) in Ireland, updates are available online (https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/e00ec-marine-protected-areas/).
The 336-page report of the MPA Advisory Group, titled ‘Expanding Ireland’s Marine Protected Area Network’, was published on 26 January 2021 and is available here or via this link: https://assets.gov.ie/120465/3c547ba1-e900-4559-92c9-760d2ead39f2.pdf.
The subsequent public consultation phase centred around the report of the expert MPA Advisory Group and the wider MPA process began in mid-February 2021 and extended over more than five months to the end of July 2021. More than 2,300 submissions were received by the Department. The feedback was the subject of an independent analysis and the consultants’ 69-page report was published on 31 March 2022. That report is available here or via this link: https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/4acec-independent-analysis-and-report-on-marine-protected-area-mpa-public-consultation-submissions/.
The 32-page submission made by Jim Hurley is available here and the 198-page submission made by Fair Seas is here in full, or here for pages 50-53 regarding the Southeast Coast only. A letter dated 6 January 2023 is available here as it is also relevant.