On 11 December documentary filmmaker Doug Allan will join the launch event of a €6.4 million environment project to inform and improve management and monitoring of several Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) between Northern Ireland, the border region of Ireland, and Western Scotland. The event will take place at the Whistledown Hotel in Warrenpoint, overlooking Carlingford Lough as one of the project sites. Doug Allan, about whom David Attenborough said ‘wildlife cameramen don’t come much more special than Doug’, will provide an illustrated talk highlighting the beauty and connectedness of the marine environment that the project aims to conserve.
The Marine Protected Area Management and Monitoring ‘MarPAMM’ project is led and coordinated by researchers from the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) and involves another six leading marine research providers, forming a cross-border collaboration network developing tools to protect vulnerable marine habitats and species.
MarPAMM is supported by the European Union’s INTERREG VA Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB). Match-funding for this project has been provided by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in Northern Ireland and the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government in Ireland. The investment will deliver seabird, benthic habitat, marine mammal and coastal processes models and culminate in the development of six MPA management plans, including four novel regional plans.
Project coordinator Dr Annika Clements from AFBI explained: “I am really excited to work alongside expert colleagues from statutory, academic and voluntary organisations and with a wide range of stakeholders to produce meaningful management plans for MPAs in Northern Ireland (Murlough Special Area of Conservation), in the cross-border region (County Down to County Louth; Carlingford Lough; North Coast – North Channel region) and in Scotland (Outer Hebrides and Argyll).’
Welcoming the official launch of the project Gina McIntyre, CEO of the SEUPB said: “Our shared marine environment, and the many different species which live within it, need to be properly managed so that it can be protected for future generations to come. As nature does not respect any boundaries this work has the most impact when it is conducted on a cross-border basis by a multi-disciplinary team of highly trained scientists with the specific skill-sets needed to deliver long-term conservation. The MarPAMM project will deliver upon this vital work and in doing so help meet the environmental protection targets of the EU’s INTERREG VA Programme across Northern Ireland, the Border Region of Ireland and Western Scotland.”
Dr Stanley McDowell, CEO of AFBI, said: “The need to better protect and manage our marine environments has been increasingly recognized in recent years. I am particularly pleased that AFBI is leading on this hugely important project which brings together leading organisations and stakeholders to make a real difference for the marine environment and for society.”
John Speers, Marine and Fisheries Director at the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in Northern Ireland, said: “I am delighted to give my support to the MarPAMM project, which focusses on the evidence-based management of our local marine environment. It is an AFBI-led endeavour which will see collaboration between multi-disciplinary scientists with the aim of generating lasting policies in the form of Marine Protected Area management plans.
MarPAMM brings together experts across Northern Ireland, western Scotland and the border region of Ireland to study a wide range of marine species and habitats, from the seabed to seabirds. All the data will be used to produce plans supporting the conservation of those marine species, their habitats and the wider environment, helping to safeguard the health and sustainability of our marine ecosystem for future generations to enjoy.”
Minister for the Natural Environment in the Scottish Government, Mairi Gougeon, said: “I am delighted that Marine Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage will be partners in the MarPAMM project, working with other organisations across Scotland, Ireland and Northern Ireland. This project will improve the marine evidence base particularly in relation to seabirds and provide the platform for stakeholder engagement in development of long-term regional MPA management plans.”