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Killybegs Fishermen’s


KFO appeal the rejection of SAC objection and highlight lack of scientific evidence for North-west Irish Sea SPA

KFO appeal the rejection of SAC objection and highlight lack of scientific evidence for North-west Irish Sea SPA

The long running issues concerning the National Parks and Wildlife Service’s (NPWS) unilateral approach to designating Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs) came to light again recently with the rejection of the KFO’s objection to the proposed delineation of the Porcupine Shelf and Southern Canyons SACs.

The KFO has been informed by NPWS that the objection to the designations has been rejected. The grounds for rejection rather confusingly state that that “objections can only be considered on scientifically based ornithological grounds”.

It appears to the KFO that NPWS may be confusing the criteria for defining SPAs, which are based on the EU Birds Directive, with that for SACs, which are based on the EU Habitats Directive, further confounding the issues with the designations which are unsupported, scientifically.

The only option now is to appeal the decision to the Designated Areas Appeals Advisory Board, which the KFO have done (see appeal document). As part of that process the KFO is permitted to make a statement to the Appeals Advisory Board in support of the case before the Board commences its formal consideration of the appeal. Throughout this entire process this is the only forum available for discussing the issues, which highlights the lack of stakeholder engagement included in designation process.

In a similar vein, the proposed classification of the North-west Irish Sea as an SPA is progressing without any stakeholder engagement. As permitted by NPWS the KFO and IS&EFPO submitted observations to the notification of the proposed classification of the SPA on the 13th October 2023. Clarifications were sought on the data used and analyses performed to derive the delineation of the proposed SPA, as little information was provided with the notification. No further clarification was received and again the only option open to industry was lodging an objection (see objection document). This is an unfortunate and regrettable situation and would have been avoided had a proper stakeholder engagement process been implemented.

As was seen with the SACs there appears to have been little if any scientific analyses undertaken to support the delineation of the proposed SPA. The cited evidence and publicly available data do not support the current outline and do not fulfil the requirement that it must be based on objectively verifiable ornithological criteria.

It is important to clarify that the KFO and the IS&EFPO recognise the need for the conservation and restoration of sensitive habitats and ecosystems and the protection of certain vulnerable species. To this end the KFO and the IS&EFPO do not object to the classification of certain areas as SPAs for birds. This is a necessary process but should be based on robust scientific data and analyses, with due consideration of other species and other activities in the area. The KFO and the IS&EFPO highlight the lack of transparency around the analyses undertaken by NPWS to determine the delineation of the proposed SPA and have serious concerns over the extrapolation of underlying data in order to increase the spatial area of the proposed SPA.

As SPAs will form part of Ireland’s Marine Protected Area (MPA) network, the KFO are of the opinion that the process should include implementation of the recommendations of the 2020 MPA Advisory Group Report on Expanding Ireland’s MPA Network. These state that “Early and sustained stakeholder engagement should be integral to the selection and management processes for MPAs. Engagement should be inclusive and equitable and the process should be designed to ensure that it is transparent, meaningful and facilitating.”. This is recognised in the European Commission’s 2022 Staff Working Document on Criteria and Guidance for Protected Areas Designations, which states that “it is therefore essential that Member States involve all relevant stakeholders, including land owners, managers and users, indigenous peoples, local communities and NGOs in the identification, designation and management of new protected areas, in a fair and participatory way, in line with the Aarhus Convention and in accordance with national procedures. Had these recommendations been followed then the current situation could have been avoided prior to the Notification of Intention to Classify being issued.

KFO Appeal to NPWS Stage 1 rejection of objection to Porcupine Shelf and Southern Canyons SACs


KFO and IS&EFPO objection to the proposed North-West Irish Sea SPA