MSP I: Éire go hIbéire: Marine Spatial Planning in the Atlantic Area

Regulators’ and aquaculture producers’ perspectives in marine spatial planning from Portugal and Ireland, “Éire go hIbéire,”took place on the 24th March 2021, hosted by Access2Sea project partners Údarás na Gaeltachta and CIIMAR, Éire go hIbéire.

Part II of this series from Ireland and England, “Aigéin is i gCóngar,” took place on 6th of July 2021.

WATCH THE EVENT HERE, read the summary below.

24 March 2021

Access2Sea is an Interreg Atlantic Area-funded project looking toward new opportunities for more competitive and sustainable blue growth in the Atlantic Area. To this end, project partners CIIMAR and Údarás na Gaeltachta hosted three speakers from Portugal and Ireland.

Juliet Fitzpatrick, Assistant Principal, Marine Planning Policy and Legislation Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage gave an overview of the National Marine Planning Framework, NMPF, in Ireland. There is great interest of course in the upcoming National Marine Planning and Development Bill, which is expected to be published before the end of the current Dáil session this summer at the latest. The NMPF enables Government to set a clear direction for managing our seas, to clarify objectives and priorities, and direct decision makers, users and stakeholders towards more strategic, plan-led and efficient use of marine resources. The upcoming Maritime Area Planning Bill will give the foundation that the three pillars the new marine planning system is based on – Forward Planning; Development Management; Enforcement. The NMPF is Ireland’s forward plan for the maritime area. “Our seas, our plan,” is the subtext of Ireland’s planning framework and aims give a clear planning guide for how seas are managed and used.


“The implementation stage of NMPF, involving local partnerships is followed by continuous review, six-year cycles are envisaged but more often in the first six years.”

–Juliet Fitzpatrick.

Juliet’s opposite number in Portugal, Dra. Cristina Borges, Head of Aquaculture Division at the Directorate-General for Natural Resources, Safety and Maritime Services, DGRM, presented the past and present of the licensing process as applies marine and brackish water aquaculture, which amounts to 95% of all aquaculture there. As is the case in Ireland, the licensing situation has been in the spotlight in recent years and we heard about how this is being actively addressed to the sector’s benefit The regulations have been streamlined and the application process has been updated as Dr Borges illustrated with the marine DGRM GIS system. What was particularly impressive in the updated DGRM was the stark reduction in time needed to process planning applications and the fact that the DGRM is SME-facing.

“The license application process is vastly quicker and cheaper now in Portugal.”

–Dr. Christina Borges.

The final speaker, Fernando Gonçalves is the secretary general of the Portuguese aquaculture association Associação Portuguesa de Aquacultores and shared his thoughts on marine spatial planning. Welcoming the progress and vision of planning authorities locally, he shed light on the improved planning situation especially from a regulatory point of view but was critical of the political pressures that prevents aquaculture reaching anywhere near its potential, too often unfairly posited as threatening environmental or tourism interests.

Opposition to aquaculture developments in Portugal are often presented in the context of environmental concerns when in actual fact they are speaking for the tourist industry. The EU imports most of it’s seafood. This is neither sustainable nor sensible nor environmental.

–Fernando Gonçalves

We expect to host follow-up marine spatial planning events. We are looking forward to hearing from Juliet Fitzpatrick’s colleague Conor McCabe at the Dept of Housing, Local Government and Heritage to introduce the marine planning bill before the end of this parliamentary session. In addition to this, we’ll be gathering ideas from practitioners in the aquaculture sector in terms of medium to long-term development. We warmly invite you to get in touch with Marcus or Rodrigo, details below, for any information or to register your interest. /ENDS