Written answers

Thursday, 24 October 2019

Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht

Environmental Policy

Photo of David CullinaneDavid Cullinane (Waterford, Sinn Fein)
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359. To ask the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht her plans to support nature and biodiversity on a whole-of-Government basis; her plans for future funding of the national biodiversity data centre; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43885/19]

Photo of Josepha MadiganJosepha Madigan (Dublin Rathdown, Fine Gael)
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My Department is responsible for implementing the Wildlife Acts 1976 to 2018, the primary legislation underpinning the protection of biodiversity and nature in Ireland. The Wildlife Acts afford protection to a range of habitats and species and provide for regulation and control of activities that impinge on biodiversity, such as hunting and trade.

The legislative framework in place to protect biodiversity is further strengthened by the European Communities (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations 2011 SI No 477/2011, which also fall under the remit of my Department. These Regulations transpose the EU Birds Directive and the EU Habitats Directive into national law, and provide for protection of certain habitats and species across the European Union, giving a framework for specific measures to be taken to target areas of concern in each Member State. The main instruments provided for are the designation of Special Protection Areas (SPA), aimed at the protection of threatened species of birds, and Special Areas of Conservation (SAC), aimed at protecting other animal species and habitats.

My Department is also responsible for developing and publishing Ireland's National Biodiversity Action Plan. To further the implementation of the Plan, and to mainstream biodiversity within national policy, an interdepartmental Biodiversity Working Group was established in 2012, drawn from 18 Government Departments and Agencies. Members have responsibilities for sectors where activities can have a direct impact on biodiversity or where there are opportunities for changes in the management of environmental resources that can support biodiversity policy formation. These sectors include strategic and land use planning, agriculture and forestry, marine and freshwater fisheries, the management and monitoring of water and environmental quality, and the provision of transport and energy infrastructure. In addition, there are Government Departments or Agencies with responsibility for sectors where there are opportunities for synergies between biodiversity protection and community development, education or health.

The National Biodiversity Data Centre (NBDC) is the name given to a programme established by the Heritage Council in 2006. It addresses the need identified by the Council that data on Ireland’s biodiversity be collected recorded and fully accessible to the public. The programme has been operated under two publically tendered contracts entered into between the Council and Compass Informatics - a private company. The team working on biodiversity data collection are employees of Compass Informatics a wholly owned subsidiary of Tracsis plc. The Heritage Council is currently finalising a contract extension with Compass Informatics to collect biodiversity data into 2020. Concurrently, a review is being undertaken by the Council. This is examining the governance, operating and financial models underpinning this important work. The outcome of that review will inform the next request for tender. Like all public contracts, this work is subject to public procurement rules. The Heritage Council’s contract with Compass Informatics has been very important in the collection of biodiversity data for public policymaking and decision making.


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