Ireland’s maritime heritage is of inestimable value to the nation. It enriches the Irish identity, provides goods and services that are vital to our economy and the well-being of Irish people, and attracts countless visitors from home and abroad. The sea is a global resource shared not only by many nations, but also - perhaps more crucially - with countless marine species. Managing our maritime heritage for the benefit of future generations is a national obligation that requires vision and political commitment. It also needs dedicated polices, legislation, and planning and development guidelines.
The Heritage Council plays a number of roles in managing our marine heritage:
- Ensures that the heritage of the coastal zone and the marine is catered for by Heritage Council programmes and policies;
- Ensure that heritage issues in coastal and marine affairs are dealt with in an integrated and sustainable way;
- Raise awareness of coastal and marine heritage;
- Propose policy to government on marine and coastal heritage.
In performing these roles, the Heritage Council’s work is aimed at the following areas:
- Maritime Culture & Heritage;
- Heritage in the Coastal Zone;
- Heritage & Traditional Boats.
In July 2006, following several years’ research and consultation, the Heritage Council launched a Policy Paper on Conserving Ireland’s Marine & Coastal Heritage [pdf 1.7mb]. The results of a number of seminars organised by the Marine and Coastal Committee are part of this paper, along with the outcomes of projects undertaken during this period: Review of Best Practice in Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM), BiblioMara, and the Coastal and Marine Resource Directory. Valuable contributions were made by organisations such as the Martin Ryan Institute, the Marine Institute and the Geological Survey of Ireland.
The Heritage Council is now calling for an integrated and strategic approach to the management of our coastal areas which places heritage at its core. This strategy should include a comprehensive review of current policies and measures, a management framework for environmental protection and management, and a campaign to raise awareness of maritime heritage.
With specific recommendations for many aspects of our maritime heritage — seascapes, biodiversity, water quality, climate changes, offshore activities, fisheries and cultured species, underwater archaeology, built heritage, traditional boats, islands and recreation — the Heritage Council calls for:
- Clear guidance and advice for new development in coastal areas;
- Protection for coastal landscapes and the promotion of sustainable tourism;
- Specific and identifiable budgets for managing water quality as part of the implementation of the Water Framework Directive;
- Off-shore and coastal biodiversity protection plans;
- A national plan for erosion and flood management which accounts for the likely effects of climate change;
- Clear guidelines for assessing and granting permission for off-shore energy production;
- Improved conservation plans, clear guidelines, and better recording of data of fish stocks to address serious over-exploitation;
- Improved management plans for aquaculture enterprises or fish farms that will reduce ecological damage and improve the visual impact on the landscape and seascape;
- Greater awareness of Ireland’s maritime heritage, including coastlines, the seas, plants, fish and animals, coastal villages, towns and cities, rich fishing traditions, customs and folklore, recreation and tourism;
- Conservation of traditional boats for commercial and recreational purposes.