During this quarter, exciting advancements have been made in developing cross-border work between Ireland and Northern Ireland. Preparations are being made for talks between statutory bodies (AFBI), NGOs (BWI) and governmental bodies (DHPLG and DAERA) to discuss objectives and desired outcomes from the cross-border work of the MarPAMM project on the island of Ireland. A comprehensive list of designated features and sites within regional and site-based pans has also been completed which will help steer further efforts of stakeholder engagement and decision making within management plans.

Project staff have been busy developing the stakeholder engagement strategy approach, which aims to be up and running from July 2020. Work with cross-border project staff and partners has created a programme of events, where we would like stakeholders and the general public to engage to help enhance the scope of management plans, help agree benefits of management procedures and help to enhance gaps within marine conservation.

Adding to the complexity of the MarPAMM project in Ireland, Covid-19 restrictions have resulted in remote working in lieu of face to face meetings. As such, the utilization of online software for videoconferencing has been beneficial to keep project momentum and continuation to achieve project deliverables. This has also enabled project officers in Ireland (BWI) and Northern Ireland (AFBI) to continue collaboration on a range of tasks such as amalgamating content for a joint webpage on the MarPAMM website and a Facebook page for adding updates and information to the wider community – set July 2020. To help support engagement and overcome lockdown restrictions we have developed a novel approach to overcome direct communication with stakeholders. These include the creation of an online questionnaire and the use of digital webinars are being explored. Stakeholder engagement has begun on an all-Ireland approach, with information being disseminated from local industry committees.

Project officers have developed a MarPAMM Irish perspective with a website overview which provides specific backgrounds for the regions of the North Coast Ireland/North Channel, County Down – County Louth, Murlough SAC and Carlingford Lough SPA.

The digital presence of MarPAMM Ireland has been further bolstered with the development of a regional and two site-specific Facebook Pages which provide weekly updates, discussions and communication with potential stakeholders. This has been developed to enhance discussions and engagement between stakeholders, general public and MarPAMM project staff in a period where face-to-face meetings and public workshops have been suspended. This platform lets the user become more hands-on with the project and upload their perspectives and aspirations from their marine and coastal environment through images, videos, journals. Management plan officers have developed an online survey to gauge the different perspectives of stakeholders’ thoughts on the management of our marine and coastal areas.

The Stakeholder Engagement Plan has created a Stakeholder Advisory Group for the Regional MarPAMM regions in Ireland and two site-specific Stakeholder Advisory Groups for the management plan areas of Mourlough SAC and Carlingford Lough SPA. These groups will forward information and agenda points into a series of digital workshops for wider stakeholder and interest group discussions. This will then result in a Webinar with stakeholders and project staff which will look at outcomes and outputs that need to forwarded to MarPAMM work packages or inclusion within management plans.