Wednesday, 6 November 2019
Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht
41. To ask the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the extent to which she continues to be actively involved in conservation measures to protect various species of birds or other wildlife now deemed to be near extinction; the degree to which audits take place in respect of native and migratory species; if there are areas in which she can assist in such conservation in return for particular assistance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45449/19]
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 our natural heritage 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.
Under Article 12 of the EU Birds Directive (2009/147/EC), Member States report on the implementation of the directive and the trends in bird populations. My Department submitted Ireland’s 3rd assessment on the status of EU-protected habitats and species to the European Commission in April 2019. A summary report has just been published which provides an overview of the assessment methodologies and the main findings of the assessments are available on my Department's website (www.npws.ie/sites/default/files/publications/pdf/NPWS_2019_Vol1_Summary_Article17.pdf).
These very thorough assessments were undertaken by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) of this Department, Inland Fisheries Ireland and external experts.
The aim of the EU Habitats Directive is to contribute towards the conservation of biodiversity by requiring Member States to take measures to maintain or restore natural habitats and wild species listed on the Directive. They have been listed because they are considered vulnerable at a Union level. Ireland has 59 habitats and 68 species listed on the Directive. Ireland’s 3rd assessment on the status of listed habitats and species was submitted by my Department to the European Commission in April 2019. A summary report has also been published and is available on the NPWS website (www.npws.ie/publications/article-17-reports). In addition, detailed reports have been published, exceeding 2,000 pages of assessments. These assessments were undertaken by over 40 scientific experts.
My Department continues to drive targeted conservation work throughout the country and co-ordinates a number of EU-funded LIFE nature projects. KerryLIFE, a project worth over €5 million to support two local communities in the Caragh and Kerry Blackwater areas, for instance, is focussed on helping restore populations of the endangered freshwater pearl mussel.
The NPWS Farm Plan Scheme of my Department offers a mechanism for engaging with individuals in a joint conservation effort. The scheme will be enhanced in 2020 to support measures to protect biodiversity and assist farmers with lands designated as Special Areas of Conservation and Special Protection Areas in their role as custodians of nature.