Survey shows few are happy with the health of Ireland’s seas


  • Two-thirds of people think Irish seas are unhealthy
  • Four in five want extra protection for Ireland’s coastal waters and oceans

According to a coalition of leading Irish environmental networks and non-governmental organisations, there is strong support for greater legal protection of Irish waters. Fair Seas has revealed details of its investigation to find out more about the connection the Irish have with the sea.

Research shows that 31% of people think Irish seas are healthy and 67% of people think the health of Irish seas has deteriorated over the last ten years.

The survey reveals that 45% of people know what a marine protected area (MPA) is, up from 37% earlier this year. It also shows strong support for additional protections, with four in five saying they would support a campaign to protect our seas more.

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are areas of our seas and coasts that are legally protected from activities that damage the habitats, wildlife and natural processes that occur there. Fair Seas is calling on the government to designate a minimum of 30% of Irish waters as MPAs by 2030. Currently only 2% of Irish waters are protected.

Over 1,000 adults were interviewed by RED C for the online survey between October 21-27, 2022. Data was weighted by gender, age, region and social class to ensure a nationally representative sample.

Some of the findings include:

  • A third (31%) of respondents think Irish seas are healthy

  • Two-thirds of people (67%) think Irish seas have deteriorated over the past decade.

  • Nearly half of respondents (45%) say they know what a marine protected area is, up from 37% in February

  • A majority of people (81%) agree with more legal protection for our seas

  • Four in five people (80%) would support a campaign for more legal protection

  • More than three-quarters of people (77%) say they understand the importance of a healthy sea

  • More than half (53%) would be more likely to visit an area if it were declared a marine protected area

Aoife O’ Mahony, campaign manager for Fair Seas, said:

This is the second time we’ve polled people across the country to get their views on protecting our seas. It shows that very few people are happy with the health of Irish waters and the vast majority of people are in favor of additional legal protection. The government has pledged to protect 30% of our waters by 2030. However, in less than eight years, we must act now to restore critical habitats, protect wildlife and help tackle the climate crisis. The forthcoming MPA legislation will provide a key tool to help Ireland address the health of our oceans and provide a framework for designating and implementing properly managed MPAs.

Dr Donal Griffin, Head of Marine Policy at Fair Seas, added:

Marine protected areas are like a national park in the ocean and are an important conservation tool to help improve the health of our ocean. It is only when designated nature areas are properly managed and achieve their conservation goals that they contribute positively to the fight against biodiversity loss.

Fair Seas released a report in June 2022 identifying 16 “areas of interest” for MPA designation in Irish waters. The sites are home to critically endangered sharks, colonies of globally significant seabirds, and endangered animals that depend on these areas for breeding and food, such as Atlantic puffins and fin whales blue.

The Fair Seas campaign is led by a coalition of leading Irish non-governmental organizations and environmental networks, including Irish Wildlife Trust, BirdWatch Ireland, Sustainable Water Network, Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, Coomhola Salmon Trust, Irish Environmental Network and Coastwatch .

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